November 2009



Whatever you hoped,
you will not find yourselves in the garden,
among the growing plants.
Your lives are not circular like theirs:

your lives are the bird’s flight
which begins and ends in stillness–
which begins and ends, in form echoing
this arc from the white birch
to the apple tree.


From Louise Gluck, Retreating wind



God our Father,
you loved the world so much
you gave your only Son to free us
from the ancient power of sin and death.
Help us who wait for his coming
and lead us to true liberty.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen

Lord Jesus Christ,
who is, who was, and who is to come,
we pray for the virtue of hope,
that amidst the trials and difficulties
of this world,
we may keep our hearts fixed
upon you, who reigns over the cosmos.
May your grace enliven us,
strengthen us,
and defend us,
as we await your coming in glory. Amen

O Wisdom,
Holy Word of God
You rule all creation with power and true concern.
– Come teach us the way of salvation.

O Sacred Lord
and leader of ancient Israel
You communicated with Moses at the burning bush
and gave him the law on Mount Sinai
– Come to set us free by Your mighty arm

O Root of Jesse
raised up as a sign of all peoples
in Your presence kings become mute
and the nations worship before You
– Come to deliver us and do not delay

O Key of David
and Royal Power of Israel,
You open what no man can shut,
and You shut what no man can open.
– Come and deliver Your people
imprisoned by darkness and the shadow of death

O Radiant Dawn
You are the brightness of eternal light
and the Sun of justice.
– Come to enlighten those who sit in darkness
and in the shadow of death

O King of the Gentiles
and the long-for Ruler of the nations,
You are the cornerstone Who make all one.
– Come and save those whom You have created

O Emmanuel
our King and our Lawgiver
You are the Desired of the nations
and the Savior of all men.
– Come to save us, O Lord, our God!

Wisdom is knowing that comes of loving. It is a conjoining of knowledge and love that I have been trying to find, first of all, in human embodiments, as ‘’a person in the persons’ I have known. I encounter it whenever ‘‘heart speaks to heart,’’ whenever a person who loves me seems also for a moment to know me, to fathom my heart. That’s seems especially to happen when I am trying to fathom the heart of the other, to ‘’pass over,’’ as I call it, into the other’s life. Instead of fathoming, I am fathomed. Instead of knowing and loving, I am known and loved. Maybe being known and being loved is the beginning of knowing and loving, and maybe you have to pass over into the other’s knowing loving to feel known and loved yourself. Anyway it is in those moments of heart speaking to heart that I feel known and loved by God, even though it is human heart speaking to human heart. For God alone, it seems to me as I try in vain to fathom it myself, can penetrate the heart’s secret. It is God who knows in out knowing, who loves in our loving.


The House of Wisdom  John S. Dunne  University of Notre Dame Press 1993

Page 154


1 tbsp olive oil
1 shallot, sliced
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 large beetroot, grated
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
pinch of sugar
200ml/7fl oz beef stock
Greek yoghurt
chives, chopped to garnish

This is a Dig In recipe.


1. Heat the oil in a frying pan over a medium heat and fry the shallot and garlic until soft.
2. Add the beetroot and red wine vinegar and cook to reduce the liquid.
3. Add the sugar and cook for one minute.
4. Add the beef stock and simmer for 10 minutes.
5. Transfer the soup into a serving bowl, and serve with a spoon of Greek yoghurt and chopped chives.


Isaac Watts  –  (1674-1748), English hymn writer

Watts was born July 17, 1674 at Southampton, England, the eldest of nine children. His father was a Dissenter from the Anglican Church and on at least one occasion was thrown in jail for not following the Church of England. Isaac followed his father’s strongly biblical faith. Isaac was a very intelligent child who loved books and learned to read early. He began learning Latin at age four and went on to learn Greek, Hebrew, and French as well. From an early age Isaac had a propensity to rhyming, and often even his conversation was in rhyme.

Because Isaac would not follow the national Church of England, he could not attend the Universities of Cambridge or Oxford. Instead, he attended an academy sponsored by Independent Christians. After completing his formal schooling, Watts spent five years as a tutor. During those years he began to devote himself more diligently than before to the study of the Scriptures. In 1707 he published his first edition of Hymns and Spiritual Songs.

For a few years Watts served as an assistant and then pastor to an Independent congregation in London. A violent and continual fever from which he never recovered forced him to leave the pastorate. Sir Thomas Abney received Watts into his home, and Sir Thomas’ family continued to provide a home and serve as Watts’ patrons for the next 36 years!

Though naturally quick to resentment and anger, the Lord used Watts’ sufferings to produce a gentle, modest, and charitable spirit. Out of his compassion, one-third of his small allowance was given to the poor. Watts’ tenderness to children can be seen reflected in his lovely Divine Songs for Children, published in 1715.

Watts’ most published book was his Psalms of David, first published in 1719. In his poetic paraphrases of the psalms, Watts adapted the psalms for use by the Church and made David speak “the language of a Christian.” Examples of Watts’ method can be seen in his paraphrases of Psalm 72 into the hymn “Jesus Shall Reign Wher’er the Sun,” Psalm 90 into “O God, Our Help in Ages Past,” and Psalm 98 into “Joy to the World.”

Benjamin Franklin first published Watts’ psalm paraphrases in America in 1729. Franklin was not the only American publisher to take an interest in Watt’s hymns. In Boston his hymns were published in 1739. They were well-loved by Americans of the Revolutionary period.

Besides over 600 hymns, Watts published 52 other works, including a book of logic used in the universities, books on grammar, pedagogy, ethics, psychology, astronomy, geography, three volumes of sermons, and 29 treatises on theology. After his death on November 25, 1748, a monument to Watts was erected in Westminster Abbey. His greatest monument, however, are the hymns to his God still used by Christ’s church.

Robert C Atchley, Spirituality and Aging, John Hopkins University Press 2009   –  

This book is a reminder that sometimes wisdom is reserved for those who have had a lifetime of listening, study and reflection. This mature book is a compendium of wide-ranging research   that processes two decades of interviews, observations and study to explore thinking about spirituality. Atchley, a noted American gerontologist, establishes why spirituality is important and how it influences the experience of aging.

The book is divided into three sections, with the first providing basic frames of reference for examining spirituality and aging, such as the nature of spirituality, spiritual development, and the spiritual self. Atchley next focuses on two dimensions of spirituality that are likely to manifest later in life: becoming a sage (developing the capacity to bring spiritual light to everyday issues) and serving from spirit (creating opportunities for service that are rooted in spirituality). The last section illustrates how spirituality informs other aspects of late life, such as psychological coping and the experience of dying and death. It is carefully written and the narrative is both nuanced and stimulating.   There is a helpful, though not comprehensive reference list for those who want to do further reading on the topic. The book especially introduces a European reader to American thinking in this area.

In my youth, I never used the word “spirituality.” It would have seemed a poor substitute for “religion,” the familiar word that gave meaning to my life. Twenty years ago we probably would not have understood anyone saying, “I’m not religious, I’m spiritual.” But nowadays, the expression has become something of a mantra. Atchley acknowledges throughout the book the many affinities between “religion” and “spirituality,” but he observes that most research on spirituality and aging has been carried out from the perspective of what Martin Marty has termed “moored spirituality” (i.e., that arising within a formal religious tradition). It is clear that this book intends to focus on “unmoored spirituality” (i.e., that experienced outside such faith traditions).
 I wonder how this use of language relates to practice. How much does pastoral care preoccupy itself with any close exploration of the nature of the spiritual in our lives? When we were last asked for a ‘spiritual health checkup’?! This book poses many questions about how we engage with the spiritual dimension of people’s lives at whatever stage they may feel themselves to be at. This will take an investment of time and some skill. I suspect that we are just not that interested enough in ordinary lived life to offer time to dig very deep.

There is some particularly interesting material here on the nature of time. Does time go faster as we get older? Atchley sees time as passing more quickly in late life and he gives four reasons why that may be so: 1) Nothing new seems to be happening; 2) People may have escaped from “the tyranny of the clock;” 3) Activities seem to flow, causing one to lose a sense of time passing; 4) Routine tasks take longer, thus making time seem more pressured.

And yet, Atchley finds, “aging makes possible a greater capacity to be in the present.” For him, elders have much more facility in bringing to the present time a sense of “present-moment awareness,” than do younger people. From this perspective perhaps the hope for the decline of the Church of England lies with older people! Why? Because millions of older people in America, perhaps a billion or more throughout the world, are aiming to live a more integrated spiritual life, one in which spirituality . . . can flourish as a centerpiece of values and behavior. We have much to learn from then if we spend time to listen and act with dignity, understanding, and compassion.

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