The Joy and Meaning of Retreat

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In the summer of 1914, my great uncle Frank, Bishop of Zanzibar and Tanganyika, delivered a series of retreat addresses to the Associates of the Community of the Sacred Passion, an order of sisters he had founded a few years previously. The talks were delivered without notes, arising spontaneously from his own meditations on the Scriptures and close walk with the Lord. Providentially, one of the Associates transcribed his words at the time. They were later published under the title In his Will.

Over the course of this coming year I hope to send out many extracts from his writings, sometimes sticking close to the original, and at other times freely adapting beyond Frank’s original inspiration

The beautiful oboe music that accompanies this first offering is by Corelli and Sammartini, played for us by Thomas Herzog. The piece concludes with Grace Nadine’s song, ‘Lord Hear us,’ sung by Sue Perks, and with Simon Bernard Smith on the panpipes.

These are words and music that bring the stillness of the Lord. We pray you will find them a doorway into spending time in communion with Him, so that they bring a rich flavour of retreat rhythm into everyday life.

The Joy and Meaning of Retreat

The Lord

Think of Me as eternal, quiet,
the still and changeless One.
Offer Me all the unquiet restlessness
that disturbs your heart.

Believer

I am here this day, Lord,
because You have put it into my heart to come
and because it’s Your desire for me to do so.
You made me for Yourself so that I might share more deeply in Your heart,
and partner with You in Your work.
With all my heart I intend to attend to You,
cultivating this precious gift of silence,
shutting out from my mind every distracting thought
and all the busyness of the day.
Then I can make a place where You can speak
and I can hear Your voice above all other noise.

I know I do not always live up to this, Lord,
but you hear my desire to set times and places asid
to commune and be alone with You.
Right now, Lord, I’m laying aside all fixed ideas and plans
and am looking away from myself and my worries,
bringing everything to You.

I’m coming like a little child, Lord,
waiting upon You in the face of all and everything
with humble confidence,
in simplicity and penitence.
For You alone are God and I can be humble and hopeful,
wearing humility as a habit and exuding Your presence.

The Lord

As you place yourself quietly in My presence,
You will see that I am always seeking you.
It is in mercy that I have brought you to this place,
and bid you sit at My feet in stillness and confidence.
I am the First and the Last,
the Living One, and you are the work of My hands.
Rejoice that your life is hidden with Christ in Me,
and that everything you need comes from Me.

Sometimes, when the sense of My presence all but overcomes you,
it is because I am pouring My love into you;
The All-Sufficient One caring for the all-dependent,
reminding you that My desire is to be in eternal union with you.

Whatever else I choose to do, or to bestow on you, is up to Me;
your task is to surrender yourself completely to Me,
depending on Me moment by moment.
Don’t let your desire to acquire or achieve something – even spiritual things –
exceed your desire for My will to be accomplished in and through you.

Believer

What else can I do at such times but to lift up my heart in adoration to You, Lord?
Set a guard over my heart to keep me from longing for anything else, or anything less, and from turning to things which would wound Your heart and thwart Your purposes.
Thank You that I can be humble about the past,
humble about the present,and hopeful as I think of the future.

God, You are coming to me right now,
I am in the presence of Creative Love,
alone with the Spirit who made me,
and who makes it possible to enjoy this profound union with You
from one day to the next.
I shall return from these set-apart times to pick up my daily routine,
carrying this atmosphere of peace within me,
that quiet power of recollectedness which comes
because I know that Your Spirit dwells within me:
the Eternal Power, the ultimate force in the whole Universe.

The Lord

To Me all creation will one day kneel and bow
and I am beckoning you to come up higher
and walk the narrow highway that leads to My dwelling place.
The door is open,
and you are invited into the courts of the King of Kings,
to share the place of the One who knelt at the feet of His friends,
then passed triumphant through the grave,
to receive His royal crown and kingdom.

Believer

Lord, I see very dimly,
and know so very little
but You see the whole picture
and have planned only the very best.
In every situation there are so many choices I could make.
You who circle the globe with wind and waves,
and call them to obedience,
may I find the way that pleases You most.
How can I doubt Your power and artistry in dealing with even the most puzzling and complicated of circumstances?
Yes, may I find the way that pleases You most.

The Lord

Do not be impatient, My child.
Over-busyness – like outright rebellion – is exhausting to your soul.
Fear and doubt are infectious, but so too are trust and acceptance;
and nothing comes close to the intimacy I fold around you.
Why watch yourself when you could be watching Me?

When you look at Me, you will see My arms stretched out to you –
and your open heart will bring you to a still greater awareness of Mine.

Believer

It is more than I can imagine, being one in mind and heart with the One who rules the Universe,
yet for the small cost of an act of self-committal that is what You are offering.
May I not disappoint You, Lord,
nor all who have trusted in You and gone before me in the faith through the centuries.
May I not murmur against the way by which You are leading me.
Keep me from those crippling regrets and pointless ‘if onlys’
which would have me believe that You can find no way to lead me forward.

Jesus, You sit on the throne that belongs to You as the triumphant Son of Man,
while Your Spirit inspires and gathers the worship of all Your faithful followers
in glorious unbroken partnership,
You have set me on this pathway and pilgrimage,
and You alone know how to bring it is to its safe conclusion.
I choose afresh to follow You this day, dear Lord,
and gladly follow where You lead.

Prayer Watch Post Brexit Negotiations, the EU, the US and the Middle East

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From the welcome extended to Ursula von der Leyen, the new President of the EU, in her recent visit to this country, it would be nice to feel that the new administration in Europe may prove somewhat more comfortable to deal with than the previous one. If so we can certainly be grateful, but that of itself cannot disguise the fact that there remain real differences and distance between the two sides . . . and a real shortage of time in which to set up complex trading agreements.

Father we pray that you will be Lord of the spirit in which negotiations are conducted, and that people can come up with solutions that minimise the damage done to people at risk – not least the farming and fishing communities – and which maximize whatever blessings may be possible as a result of new opportunities.

May nothing derail or divert into dead end sidings and may there be no serious majoring on minors!

It is going to be important that Britain and the EU continue to collaborate closely together in the face of many challenges, not least especially the events now unfolding in the Middle East.

In the immediate aftermath of the strike on American air bases, the Foreign Minister of Iran appeared to imply that it was ‘quids in’ and that this would be the limit of Iranian intervention. Significantly, the missiles had been carefully programmed to target American enclosures and even hangars storing aircraft parts, but left the lives of service personnel unharmed, thereby avoiding automatic retaliation from the USA. (This itself is an impressive indication of the sophistication of Iranian military capability, as we also saw in the drone attack that destroyed such a high percentage of the Saudi oil industry).

The Ayatollah, who far outranks the Foreign Minister, has however indicated that he is not content to leave matters at this. With millions fervently chanting ‘D**th to America,’ and no direct diplomatic channels open between the two nations, it is essential that we remain watchful and prayerful.

Lord God, King of Kings, please keep this constant stream of curses being uttered from becoming a vessel and a vehicle on which enemy powers ride in against the nations. Instead, Lord, we pray Your blessing over the land of Iran and the countries most immediately in the sphere of Iranian influence: The Yemen, the Lebanon, Syria and Iraq.

Father, move in power upon all the key players in this ongoing tension so that leaders think and act wisely, rather than being swept up into the maelstrom now that we will be less formally ‘joined at the hip.’ In Jesus’ name

The Resting Place

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Soak in this meditation on the comforting and far-reaching doctrine of the sovereignty of God

Written and read by Robert Weston, with Colin Owen as the voice of the Lord.

The full list of pieces you will hear are:

Bells
Innocent: Wings of the Wind
Immortal invisible God only wise (hint of)
Hail to the Lord’s Anointed
He holds me
Storm Petrel
Lullaby by Philip Spratley (from his Outlaw Suite)

Amongst the musicians were Christiane von Albrecht, Megan Mellamphey, Julia Herzog, Thomas Herzog, Peter Richards, Francis Cummings, Jane Horsfall, Shirley Richards, Corinne Frost and Fontane Liang

The Resting Place – A Meditation on The Sovereignty of God

Lord, you say, “This is the resting place. Let the weary rest. This is the place to be refreshed.”  (Is 28:12 EHV) We are longing just to come and be refreshed.

The Lord:

Come aside a while and ponder My sovereignty. So far from being a distant or highfaluting concept, this is manna to your soul and truth to bring repose to weary hearts and minds. I am sovereign: this is the bedrock of everything in all creation. I am before all things and in Me, all things hold together. (Col. 1:17) The more you dare to believe this, the more it will focus your gaze on the Lamb upon His throne, and keep you from being led astray by every wind and whim.

The believer:

So here we are, Lord, bombarded on every side by make-believe reality and the strictures of a consumer society; immersed in the insistent mantras and populist slogans of governments and corporations, rights groups and movements – so many agendas, so many principles; so much intolerance, and fang-toothed, talon-clawed opposition.

How we need not just a short-term break, but an eternal resting place deep within our hearts. Forgive us when we allow these things to impinge so strongly on our senses to weigh more heavily on us than the faith that beholds the invisible and perseveres accordingly.

You are not a man that You should lie, nor the son of man that You should change Your mind.  Have You not said, and will You not do it? The day will come when Your feet stand again upon the Mount of Olives, Lord Jesus, and Your glory fill the world.

The Lord:

My hand is on the tiller and My purposes cannot fail.  I stand alone, and who can oppose Me? I do whatever I please and none can gainsay My word.  (Job 23:13)

Come near you nations and listen; you people, hearken to all I have to say; (See Isaiah 34 1-2)

I brought Israel up from Egypt, the Philistines from Crete and the Syrians from Kir. It was I who delivered Israel from the tyranny of the Pharoahs, then from the Baals and then from Babylon – and it is I who rescue you from your many scrapes!

The rulers of the world conspire together against Me (Ps. 2:1–2) but My anointed One is King over all the nations of the world. I have given Him the nations as an inheritance (Ps. 2:8) – yes even those nations that rage so loudly against Me.

The believer

Not to us, O Lord, not to us but to Your name be the glory, for Your steadfast loving-kindness and for the sake of Your truth and faithfulness.  (Ps. 115:1 AMPC)

We are the inheritors of Your kingdom, and we live and move in Your glory, in the peace and security that comes from following the Prince of Peace.

Voice: The Lord

The eyes of the arrogant will be humbled and human pride brought low; the LORD alone will be exalted in that day.

The LORD Almighty has a day in store for all the proud and lofty, for all that is exalted – and they will be humbled. (Isaiah 2:11-12)

The believer:

Yes Lord, scatter all that is proud and lofty in the imagination of our heart and bring us to that deeper place of knowing that we are living and praying according to Your will; no longer asking amiss by following our own desires but increasingly conformed to the image of Your Son, whose only desire is to do the will of the One who had sent Him.

Rather than looking wistfully at someone else’s gifts and opportunities, or bowing down at the shrine of our own achievements, we cry out with the psalmist, ‘All our springs are found in You!’ (Psalm 87:7) You, who did not spare Your own and only Son, do not spare us from Your work of refining. Remove all bias and boasting from our hearts; fashion within us a true and lasting humility so that we are spared the fate of Aaron’s foolish sons and Eli’s licentious offspring. (Lev.  10:1-3) Keep us from becoming like Demas, who put love of worldly things ahead of serving You (2 Tim. 4:10).

The Lord:

Though you see many things that might make you despair, when you indulge your woes and listen to your fears, and when your faults and failings shout aloud from the roof tops, and your senses are inclined to shrink in the face of all these discouragements, never forfeit the godly foundations I have procured for You:  My arms beneath and My throne above undergirds all.

There can no more be any such thing as ‘salvation by worry’ than there could be ‘salvation by works alone’. The fairest fruit comes when you admit your helplessness and look away to Me.

How can you truly be free in My presence if you fix your eyes on earthly things and seek honour praise and approval more from one another than from Me? (John 3:12, 5:44)

The believer:

From heaven you make us hear Your voice to discipline us. (Deut. 5:24, 4:12, 36)  You truly give and take away: blessed be Your name. (Job 9:12)
Many plans occupy our hearts and minds: but may Your purposes alone prevail (Prov. 19:21).

The Lord

I am the sure foundation for your times, a rich store of salvation and wisdom and knowledge; and the key to this treasure is to be found by pressing in and onward to know still more of Me as I work all things together according to the counsel of My will, on behalf of those whom I have chosen from before the beginning of time itself. (Eph. 1:11)

My foundation stands firm, sealed with this inscription: ‘I know those who are Mine – and everyone who confesses My name must turn away from wickedness.’  (2 Tim, 2:19) Those who believe and trust in the precious cornerstone of Christ need neither be disturbed nor give way (Is. 28:16).

The believer

You are the Alpha and the Omega, the architect of all, and the potter who shapes and recreates all things for Your pleasure.

Keep us from the barnstorming of the enemy’s thrusts and lies, swiftly acknowledging the things we need to repent of, and identifying those inevitable surprise attacks we need to rebuke.

Grant us discernment to recognise Your strong hand behind the things that come upon us, to know that even our very afflictions are no chance or random event, but deeply disposed and ordained of You. May we not be unsettled by our trials, but recognise, for as Paul declared, we are indeed destined for them. (1 Thess. 3:3).

If sometimes the measures You adopt feel extreme, and the situations we face most daunting, help us to maintain our confidence that You intend to be glorified through our surrendered lives. You do not err in what You allow to come our way. (Job 9:12) Even when our soul is sore and pressed with sorrow, yet we have but to look to You to find You drawing near.

Even though this new found helplessness is not what we would have chosen, it is what You knew it would be needed to complete the cycle of things You intend us to overcome, and to turn from all the glorying and boasting in vain things that so characterises this present era.

It is not so much that You help those who help themselves, but that You help those most willing to confess how unable they are to help themselves. For whatever our outward limitations our hearts and springs are at liberty to find their joy and freedom with You.

Seated on high You yet stoop so low to meet us as and where we are. No matter that may sometimes feel like worker bees, gathering but a fraction of a teaspoonful of honey in our lifetimes, yet we are doing and seek to do all that you have commissioned us to do as we look above and not at the things of life.

You are our refuge and our fortress, O God, in whom we trust (Psalm 91:2). You are fully committed to take all that we give You and to work it out in ways that lie far beyond our understanding. You ride on the clouds in Your majesty yet come to our aid. (Deut. 33:26)

Fickle and foolish our ways, but stable and strong Your throne – and set and secure Your far ranging purposes.  Make us, each one, more patient in adversity, tossed no longer every which way by each fresh challenge, but pressing on to pursue the unsearchable riches we have received in Christ (Eph. 3:8).

Lord of our hearts, and Lord of our destinies, You alone know the days allotted to us. (Job 14:5) Direct the flow of our days according to Your sovereign purposes, and just as You fine tune and regulate every living thing in all creation, regulate the precious hours that You have entrusted to us, as we wait for Your supreme and blessed hope to be revealed once more from Heaven (Titus 2:13).

You alone our refuge, and Your everlasting arms will never let us down.  You have made our hearts a resting place beneath the shadow of Your wings – and we ascribe glory to Your name, dearly beloved and Eternal God (Deut. 33:26-27).

The Lord:

My compassion is not dependent on what you do. Neither does My justice depend on human will or exertion. My compassion and mercy spring from My mercy seat. (Rom. 9:15-16) Seek My mercy on behalf of erring souls and nations, streets and towns and regions, careers and professions.

My Sovereignty is not blunted or diminished by your failures. I can yet rearrange the strands of your lives, and ordain strength and fruitfulness even from the pits of your failure. Have I not brought you to this place where you have reached the end of your own resources, in order that I can rule and reign in your lives? Since nothing lies beyond My ability to redeem, can I not turn tragedy into triumph?  I am and always will be, and those who submit to My leading will find themselves encompassed in My great purposes. Those who want to be My disciples must follow Me, because I desire My servants to be where I am. I will honour anyone who serves Me.

Listen only for My voice: this is the way and you must have the courage to embark upon it. Allow no foothold to the forces of fear and disappointment, for they have the power to shut out the awareness of My presence.

Come to Me afresh and learn of Me, for I am meek and lowly of heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  (Matt. 11:29)

The believer

Lord, let me keep saying Yes to you! You have made known to me the paths of life; and You will fill me with joy in your presence.

You reign over heaven and earth (Rev. 19:6), and I will give You thanks at all times and in all places for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ (Eph. 5:20).

My heart pants after You, for though Your way is mysterious and leads through the sea where your footprints are not seen, and even in the whirlwind, Your love is stronger than death, and Your desire for me is so much keener than mine for You, yet always leading home to You.

You are not a servant to do our bidding and yet You allow us to enquire of You (Ezekiel 36:37), and take into account the little that we offer You.

Come in Your glory and fill our hearts. Refresh our spirits with sweet cordial and living water from Your heavenly streams. Lift us above our limitations to embrace Your limitless life so that from that resting place we in turn may cultivate great faith and creativity in the hearts and lives of many.

Shape the likeness of Your Son in us so that we do not miss out on any part of Your wonderful, uplifting command to rejoice in You, yes to rejoice always in You, O God our eternal resting place, for we dwell under the shadow of your wing.  (Phil. 3:1, 4:4).

Come beside Me: My face is peace

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Philip Spratley was the music teacher at my middle school, who I had the opportunity to meet again a few years ago. This lovely Lullaby is from his opus 12b: ‘In Outlaw country,’ which he kindly gave us permission to record.

May this beautifully played piece both soothe and inspire.

Musicians: Grace Lee leading (viola), Helen Rees and Teresa Brasier, (violins), Jo Garcia and Anna Frazer (cellos), Geth Griffith (double bass), and Fontane Liang (Harp)

Recorded at From the Heart (Regents College 2013)

Come in Your glory, Lord

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Come in Your glory, Lord, and fill this place. Beautiful singing in the Spirit

Many years ago, Carol led an extended time of improvised worship at one of the Good News Crusades held in Malvern. Someone has now posted this online, where it has been listened to in very many homes and much appreciated. Here it is for you to enter into too.

We hope it will bless you over the Christmas/New Year period.

A mighty tide has swept much and many away – A Reflection

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The Lord has been impressing two things on me this morning [on the day after the election]. Firstly, that a mighty tide has flowed in with regard to the outcome of this election in response to the very considerable amount of prayer that has gone up for it – news of which has startled the whole world by the clarity of its outcome.

Secondly that there is a deeply humbling aspect to this victory. Few in the Conservative leadership itself envisaged such a substantial and difficult to achieve majority. ‘The Lord has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts’ (Luke 1:51 NIV). Politicians need conviction of intention and a thick skin, but the Lord was speaking about the heads of politicians being puffed up with their own ideas and not looking to Himself. A verse from Isaiah came strongly to mind ‘The Lord Almighty has a day in store for all the proud and lofty, for all that is exalted – and they will be humbled and brought low’ (Is. 2:12).

To explore how that worked out in practice we can see that the Lord did not permit Jo Swinson’s well publicised declaration that she was going to be our next Prime Minister to come to pass. Her declaration played out badly in her own Scottish seat, where the ‘Jante spirit’ intensely dislikes people setting themselves up and boasting in such ways. If you have forgotten what the Jante spirit is, you will find this really interesting. See Her high handed intention to ignore the earlier referendum result lost her much trust too. Along similar lines the Lord did not permit John Bercow’s determined attempts to succeed in stalling parliamentary support for the Brexit Withdrawal Bill. Continue reading

An important prophecy about specific attacks that are going to be directed against Boris Johnson and his government.

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The word ‘Mashal’ implies a wise and succinct message that is often shared in the form of a prophetic parable or a poem. From time to time we send out words by people whose ministry we are not personally acquainted with. We did that with regard to Emma Stark’s prophecy about Brexit being delayed but still set to happen, and Veronika West’s word that Boris Johnson would be elected and the chair that he sat on become dramatically less rickety.

We are stepping out again now for a third time by passing on a powerful message that was posted by the Parliamentary Prayer Group about the scale of the kickback that Boris Johnson will now be facing, which will be of a kind that the author calls ‘Jezebelic.’ Anna, who was one of a number of people who initially passed this word on to Tim and myself, tells me that that the man who gave this word comes from Aberdeen and that he is a good pianist!

In the light of the word this link takes us to, this would be a good time to remind people of the bulletin we sent out on the 22nd of October citing Veronika West’s prophecy:

“There will be those who will relentlessly oppose [Boris] both to the right and to the left.  Many will work tirelessly to cause great embarrassment for Prime Minister Boris Johnson both in front of Her Majesty the Queen and the nation.

But watch! There will come a sudden and severe shift once again in the nation and the government where we will see the hand of God’s divine intervention moving on behalf of our nation and for Boris Johnson and his government.”

To say the least, it is a strong reminder that we can’t afford to put our feet up too firmly this Christmas time! Rather as happens when a mission finishes, exhausted intercessors are often inclined to collapse in a weary heap at the very time when the seeds that have been sown urgently need watering and nurturing. This is precisely the time to summon fresh battalions of intercessors and to rouse oneself for fresh efforts.

Linda commented on the testimony:

I’ve just read Frank’s article. In fact the Lord told me to read it three times, which was good because I wasn’t totally convinced the first time. I thought: Jezebel gets the blame for a lot of things, etc. etc. but he’s right – she is a political spirit too. This would explain all the intimidation in political circles too, and of course the intense fight it has been, and still is going to be, to leave the EU. We shouldn’t fall into the trap of thinking that when we leave the EU we’ll suddenly be immune from the Jezebel spirit. As Frank mentions in his testimony it is already operating in the UK, and that will not just suddenly cease.

I was struck too by Martin Perry’s comment about a diamond over Birmingham. I immediately thought of the Wall of Prayer – a national landmark of hope – which is being planned.

This will be important for Birmingham itself which has become such an oppressive place in the past few years – especially central Birmingham. Don’t be put off by its length: it is well worth reading to the end.

A prophetic testimony concerning the General Election

This article from the New York Intelligencer is worth reading too.

If you are not familiar with the term ‘woke’ in America it means ‘alert to injustice in society, especially racism’.

Praying for something beautiful to emerge from the mess: A suggestion for when we vote today

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As we cast our vote today let’s rejoice that we have the freedom to do so – and thank God for all who work hard for truth humility and justice.

At this time when there can surely never have been an election in which so many will be voting tactically or against other people or parties (as opposed to genuinely having a favourite choice of their own) let’s continue to pray today for the Lord to raise up a ‘cast’ of MPs who He can use, and who will legislate good things into being.

Since no party in this election has been anything like ‘lily white’, let’s use the actual moment of voting as an opportunity to repent of the sins of the party that we are voting for. Continue reading

Taking offence or giving thanks?

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Back in the day when rail travel was in its infancy people’s luggage was stored in a separate Guard’s Van and taken out and placed on the platform in alphabetical order. Mr Appleby would find his trunk under A, Mr Brown his under B and so on, but when a clergyman travelling up from Wales for the first time he was unfamiliar with the system and asked a porter where he would find his. When the porter asked him his name he replied, “Llewellyn”. He was considerably taken aback when the porter said to him “Go to L, sir!”

There was, of course, a perfectly innocent explanation, but many of us are only too good at taking things the wrong way! Continue reading

Still and still!

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Now then, stand still and see this great thing the Lord is about to do before your eyes! (1 Sam. 12:16)

‘Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again.  The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.’ (Exod. 14:13-14)

Sometimes what the Lord requires is not our action but our stillness and attention, even though we are champing at the bit with what may or may not be holy fire coursing through our veins. Here were Moses and the Israelites obeying God by leaving Egypt but closely pursued by relentless forces intent on their destruction – and here was the Lord telling them just to ‘Be still!’ Really?! Continue reading