Merry Christmas

The Church’s Ministry of Healing: Ireland wishes you all
a very happy and blessed Christmas. 

May the God of gentleness be with you
may his tenderness shine through you
and the blessing of gentleness be upon you

May the God of peace be with you
taking your fears and doubts
May the blessing of peace be upon you

May the guarding of the loving Christ
be upon you, to aid and uphold you
each day and night of your lives.

 

 

Self-care around Christmas

It is a few days to Christmas and some of us will find it harder than others to enjoy the festivities. It could be we have been very busy and need rest, but we don’t know how to incorporate it in our schedule over the next days. Or it could be that we lost a loved one this year, and Christmas is going to be harder for that reason, because our heart still aches because of the loss. There are other reasons why people are sometimes lonely at Christmas, and if you find yourself struggling reach out to a friend and ask for support.

There is an image, which I am afraid is not realistic, that portrays that we should all be happy at Christmas. This adds to the pressure for those who find this time of the year hard for whatever reason. Feelings of overwhelm are human, and in some circumstances quite natural, but we can diffuse them a little with taking time for self-care.

Prayer and mindfulness can sustain us during stressful times. Even a few moments of quiet, when we pause to take in the present moment in its fullness, look around and allow the Presence of God to wash over our hearts, slowly, silently, can provide a day-to-day support.

There is one other thing I would like to mention that can help in our challenges any time of the year, and particularly now as we are approaching Christmas. It is a practice of self-compassion. Dr. Kristin Neff explains that “self-compassion involves acting the same way towards yourself when you are having a difficult time” as you would towards someone else. We can pause in a day, say to ourself, “this is really difficult right now”, if it helps we can put a hand on our heart and allow ourselves to receive comfort from that acknowledgement. Kristin Neff says that the elements of self-compassion are self-kindness, common humanity – knowing that others go through hard times as well, and mindfulness. Neff has self-compassion exercises; some of them may resonate with you. As Christians we know that God is compassionate towards us, and when we offer ourselves self-compassion and self-kindness, we also offer ourselves His love, we nurture ourselves as we would nurture a plant in its growth.

At Christmas we will celebrate that Jesus was born in a stable, in imperfect conditions. If you find yourself in less-than-perfect condition at this time, know that He understands and His love is there to support you.

If you are struggling and having suicidal thoughts, you can call Samaritans on 116 123.

Iva Beranek
Dr Iva Beranek is the Ministry Facilitator for the CMH: Ireland

Advent gives us riches, stored in secret places

I will give you….riches stored in secret places’.
(Isaiah 45:3)

This verse from Isaiah, pledging hidden riches, was written at the end of the exile, a time of homecoming. God assures his people, not just of a new home, but of one which is thrilling beyond expectations, where treasures are waiting to be discovered. He who created our vast universe, who turned water into wine in lavish profusion, has an infinity of treasure stored up which, if we are patient, he will reveal to us. Who, for example, would have thought of looking for the riches of the Incarnation, Emmanuel, God-with-us, in the back yard of a pub in Bethlehem where animals were stabled? God’s wealth concealed in poverty and ordinariness.

But patience is the key. These treasures are not wide open to the world. They are in secret places, and we need to make time if we are to discover them. We need to wait, our minds alert and uncluttered, until God shows us His hiding place. Rather like Simeon, ‘who watched and waited’ for a revelation of the Lord’s Messiah.

Besides waiting, there is remembering. ‘Counting your blessings’, as the saying goes. When we dwell on the riches we have already been granted, and recognized all God has provided for us, we are filled with wonder. We are not worthy, and yet we have received unsearchable riches, pouring forth as light from the sun.

These words come from “Sayings For Stillness”, a publication by the Fellowship of Contemplative Prayer (FCP). The Fellowship encourages us to take time out of our busy days to contemplate the Word of God, to be still and alert, to be aware of Christ in the world.

Waiting is God’s word

“They who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength,
They shall mount up with wings like eagles,
They shall run and not be weary,
They shall walk and not faint.” 

(Isaiah 40:31)

Waiting is something that we regard as a bit of a nuisance. At best it is a waste of time that could be better employed and – at worst – it is an experience of growing impatience, anger or anxiety. Buses come along on every route except the one we want. The doctor takes excessive time over every patient before us in the waiting room. Post after post does not bring a decision on that all-important job application.

Today waiting is an unfashionable word.

It has been branded a curse in an age when we live by the clock and there is always too much to do.

But waiting is a holy word.
It is a Biblical word.

The Old Testament is the Israelites’ story of waiting for the coming of the Messiah while the New Testament reveals the Christ whose followers must also learn to wait. Even the Twelve Disciples had to wait for the coming of the Holy Spirit before they began their work on the Church. And those who came to faith through them – then and in the ages that followed – wait for the return of their Lord to judge the world and make all things new.

Waiting, therefore, is God’s wordAnd it is a major theme of the season of Advent. We look back to the old prophecies of the Messiah – we recall centuries of waiting long since past. And, at the same time, we look forward, as we wait for Christ’s Second Coming.

When will Jesus come again? No-one but God knows the answer to that question. But we’ve been well warned to be prepared and to be ready. Jesus himself warns us – in several of his parables – that God creeps up on us when we least expect him, and that we should therefore make sure we’re properly prepared to receive him. But then that is true of everyday life.

God is always knocking on the door, but mostly we are so poorly tuned into him that we fail to hear or to recognise. On Advent Sunday Churches will have lit the first of the candles on their Advent wreaths. The light symbolises Christ – the Light of the World. And, week-by-week, it will grow stronger representing the Light that is coming into the world, the true Light which enlightens everyone.

If we want to be ready to receive that Light then we need to make good use of the darkness of Advent.

In the midst of all the hustle and bustle that is the lead-up to Christmas, listen for that still small voice. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.
Be vigilant and be prepared.

We keep silence – as we wait for the Lord…

“They who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength.
They shall mount up with wings like eagles.
They shall run and not be weary.
They shall walk and not faint.” 

(Isaiah 40:31)

David Gillespie.
Canon David Gillespie is CMH:I Board member

Advent, something that God does


We are approaching the season of Advent. Nights are longer, days are colder, and the lights in our homes shine brighter. If we have an Advent wreath, lighting candle after candle each week in our houses and churches, we are guided by their light. Hope, love, joy and peace are traditional meanings for each of the Advent candles. These can also be the gifts of healing that we pray for week after week. Hope to sooth our disappointments, love to heal our wounds, joy to lighten our days, and peace to sooth the ache of discord among and within us.

There is a lot that we do in terms of preparing for Christmas, both externally as well as spiritually. Yet Advent is something that God does. It is God’s initiative, His coming into the world. With Mary being pregnant, in Advent Jesus is already here, though not yet fully. Like Jonah was in the belly of the wale we are with Mary waiting for the fruits of our Advent.

Lord, what will You do this Advent?

We can carve out some time for prayer in our daily schedule and ponder on this question.
Ask yourself, what do you want the Lord to do for you? Where do you need Him the most?

As a response to God’s gracious action in our lives, we can also ask,
Is there someone who needs the light of hope, the light of love, the light of joy, the light of peace? Is God inviting us to visit someone with this light in Advent?

Be attentive. Pay attention to the movements in and around you where you may notice His workings.

“Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever.” (Psalm 107:1)

Iva Beranek
Dr Iva Beranek is the Ministry Facilitator for the CMH: Ireland

A time to remember

The change from autumn to winter is a time when the natural cycle of nature in this part of the world invites us to reflect on the reality of change and the inevitable process of ageing and death. It is no coincidence that at this time of the year we often reflect both personally and liturgically on the memories and lives of those who have died. November in particular is a poignant month of remembrance on so many levels. What is it though to remember? For those who are bereaved, it can be an unsettling mixture of deep love and sadness at the same time; a deep love for the person we remember and of course a very human sadness because we miss them. In the Christian tradition we live daily with the mystery of death and life where as followers of Jesus Christ we proclaim his victory over death and rejoice in eternal life. While society and popular media often struggle to describe the reality of death through euphemisms such as ‘passed away’ our funeral liturgy gives a clear reminder that someone has died. Why do we find it hard to talk about death?

As people of faith, we have an opportunity this November to talk meaningfully and pastorally about death and remembrance. We can do so knowing that yes it can bring a tear to our eye as we miss someone close to us, but that is OK. In fact it is important. To be remembered is to be cherished. We have an opportunity to offer healing as we accompany those who are bereaved, no one else can do their grieving but we can accompany them with a tender presence as we speak of their loved one.

As we celebrate All Saints’ and All Souls’ Day in early November may we be inspired by those who have nurtured us, inspired us and loved us. May we mention their names and in the timelessness of eternity feel their communion and fellowship. In the words of William Draper

In our day of thanksgiving one psalm let us offer
For the saints who before us have found their reward;
When the shadow of death fell upon them, we sorrowed,
But now we rejoice that they rest in the Lord.

In the morning of life, and at noon, and at even,
He called them away from our worship below;
But not till His love, at the font and the altar,
Had girt them with grace for the way they should go.

These stones that have echoed their praises are holy,
And dear is the ground where their feet have once trod;
Yet here they confessed they were strangers and pilgrims,
And still they were seeking the city of God.

Sing praise, then, for all who here sought and here found Him,
Whose journey is ended, whose perils are past;
They believed in the Light; and its glory is round them,
Where the clouds of earth’s sorrows are lifted at last.

Daniel Nuzum.
Rev Dr Daniel Nuzum is a Chair for CMH:I

Looking beyond ourselves in compassion

There is a natural human inclination at various times in our life to move into times of introspection and periods of self-reflection. Socrates after all said, “an unexamined life is not worth living”, and while this is relevant for everyone it is particularly important for the follower of Christ and especially so for those involved in the healing ministry.

For those consumed with the mission to be made well again, it is very easy to become trapped by the inner pain and suffering that we are experiencing in the immediate present. This often comes at the cost of forgetting others close to us, who may also be in search of healing. There is a challenging call to each of us, to constantly broaden our horizon even in the midst of our own suffering. The wider world is full of conflict, and we shouldn’t let our own pain, or our own search for inner meaning cause us to forget to look outside our immediate circle with compassion and love. Sometimes it is not even enough to remind ourselves to remember “the least of these”, instead as a spiritual practice we should be willing to look beyond the circle that so often confines our horizons and what we believe is possible.

Over a lifetime each person will experience loss, rejection and betrayal to some degree. We lose a loved one, our physical or mental capacities seem to decrease, or a previously good friend may betray a deep confidence. The actual process of living life challenges us deeply, and can make it difficult to keep our heart open and alive to Christ. Our daily living tests us to keep our hearts open and trusting.

The greatest gift we can pray for is compassion. At the centre of our being lies the light of love. Our journey to that love involves accepting our humanity and forgiving ourselves for all that we are and have done. Only then a glimpse of wholeness, a glimpse of who are meant to be is in reach.

Bruce Hayes.
Rev Bruce Hayes is CMH:I Board member

Integrating the summer into daily life

The summer may be nearly over but I decided not to be only a visitor this summer and to enter the season as if the quality of my life depended on it. Our everyday life has challenges, so at times we may feel that we need a deeper restoration. Earlier in the year that’s exactly what I felt, but I was not sure if a dream of a longer summer holiday would be possible.

I don’t know how good you are in looking after your own needs, but I needed a push and an encouragement in order to explore the options. Thankfully it all worked out and I am just back from the extended leave over the summer.

I went to Malta for some of it and enjoyed the beauty and the sunshine, but I let it penetrate my soul too. I am always grateful for holidays in sunshine and near the beach, but summer can be so much more. It can also be an opportunity for deep inner renewal where we let God bring the summer into our heart and soul.

There are benefits of merely enjoying the summer externally, like a visitor to its chambers. But it is much more beneficial to internalise some of its qualities, to store it within in the recesses of our being.

We can take in the peace that inner rest brings and integrate it in the centre of our soul, as a gift from God. It is like finding our centre-point and grounding ourself in such a way that we can weather life’s challenges when they come. Whatever was restoring over the last few months, whatever life-giving, healing, or even fun, is what we can internalise and let it nourish us in the seasons to come. It is good to be attentive to where God was present in our days – in smaller or bigger things, because those encounters with Jesus in daily life is what heal us. When we allow the blessings of summer to touch our soul, the summer has fulfilled its purpose much more fully than when we allow it to only touch us on the outside. It is as if deciding not only to be a visitor in the season of summer, but to be a host and welcome the summer inside our flesh and bones.

September leads us towards a time of harvest. While we are grateful for the fruits that the land gives us, we can also gather the fruits that the Lord gave us over the summer and over this last year. We can ponder on those fruits in thanksgiving and take them as a strength for the season of life that is ahead of us.

May God bless you with the eternal summer of His love.

Iva Beranek
Dr Iva Beranek is the Ministry Facilitator for the CMH: Ireland

Wellspring, a taste of God’s goodness

Wellspring is our one day retreat and recently we offered another one in St Patrick’s Church, Dalkey. It was a rainy Saturday and as I was looking at the pouring rain through the window I was thinking of the talk I gave that morning about Elijah and the value of silence.

When Elijah was at Mount Horeb he realised God was not in the fire, nor in the earthquake, God was not in the wind, in a way I could have also said that God was not in the pouring rain. God was in the sound of sheer silence. And yet that morning observing the rain, I felt the sense of calm, of stilling the inner senses. That day rain actually helped create the silence in which we encounter God’s presence.

During Wellspring we try to create a space for people to meet with God on a very personal level. Out of this relationship with Jesus, healing comes. We each come with different questions and life stories and we share in the silence together. Some of us come affected with the current happenings in the world, seeking God in the midst of it. Two of us who are facilitators, Carol and myself, we don’t provide answers. We offer input that facilitates a deep exchange with God, and in that encounter people bring their questions, hopes, need for healing. What happens in Wellspring is often deeper than what we can perceive with our eyes, because it happens in the depths of people’s hearts. Sometimes we get a glimpse of it through the feedback that people give us, but I know that certain experiences where God graces us with His presence and healing are not always easy to put into words.

Every time we offer Wellspring, we have new people coming, and yet some people come back time and again. “Come to the well, the well is deep”, we say. That well is the well of God’s healing presence and whenever we come to it, it is always new. Perhaps that is one of the reasons why some people come back. The prayer practices that we teach and the theological input we offer are easily applicable to everyday life. Each of us can take something from the day and apply it to nurture our prayer life, and to seek deeper healing from God. And yet there is something life-giving when we spend a day in silence with other people. God touches us in a specific way, and it is as if tasting some of His goodness. “Taste and see that the Lord is good” (Psalm 34:8). In this world marred with evil, tasting God’s goodness enflames hope and it brings healing to our heart and soul.  

Iva Beranek
Dr Iva Beranek is the Ministry Facilitator for the CMH: Ireland

Talk to someone, if you need to

The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come”. And let him who hears say, “Come”. And let him who is thirsty come, let him who desires take the water of life without price.
(Rev 22:17)

Sometimes we Christians think that we have to hold it all together, that we have to be happy and satisfied because if we are not there might be something wrong with our faith, or with us. This anxiety or guilt arises in many life’s circumstances. Perhaps we don’t hold that belief openly or even very consciously, but it affects how we deal with difficult situations in life. Perhaps it is an expectation of fulfilment we have picked up somewhere along the way, and so when feelings of emptiness or unfulfillment come, which are part of life, we don’t know what to do about that.

Especially those of us in ministry may find it hard to reach out for help, should we need it. Life is often not easy, but it is easier if we can talk to someone about it. There is a power of healing in simply being heard, being listened to, because through it we are acknowledged. We experience that we ‘matter’. Self-care is important for everyone, but especially for those who often have to give of themselves through work or ministry.

The thing is, we do not have to hold it all together. Not all the time. There is no shame in asking for a listening ear, no shame in seeking support. I recently spoke with someone who found this challenging, who found it easier to hide the pain, even though it became overwhelming. Unfortunately, many of us to some degree may choose the same route, it seems safer not to say how we really are, even though we know this won’t help us.

Jesus understands all and every emotion we may be experiencing, from happier ones to the more difficult ones.  And He says, “come to me all who are thirsty, all who need rest”. If we use our vulnerability to connect with others, instead of to isolate ourselves, we will greatly benefit. It may seem scary at first, but less scary than feeling alone. Also, we will realise that others are willing to embrace and love us as we are. And then, if we had a burden, when shared, it may eventually lessen, even if slowly, over time. There is a power of healing in being listened to, in being loved as we are. If we need to talk about whatever might be going on in our lives, it is good to do so. Should this apply to you, be kind to yourself and seek someone you trust. In this way we feel less alone. God meets us in each other. And God meets us where we are.

Iva Beranek
Dr Iva Beranek is the Ministry Facilitator for the CMH: Ireland