The Idiot’s Guide to Doing Intercessions – Top Ten Tips

Idiot 1) Before the event
If you are doing the intercessions, you should be invited before the service to the vestry prayers. Carpe diem is the motto here. Be the first in the huddle to pray and do so fervently. Get yourself some cracking openers and closers to your prayers. The Book of Common Prayer has some belters. Memorise these. They make your prayers sound pious and deep and the quality of your words in the middle then becomes inconsequential. Use plenty of thees, thys, and thous, again to add sanctity. For example, use ‘We beseech thee’ instead of ‘We ask.’ Make sure you offer a resounding Amen to everyone else’s prayers and be sure to be the last one in the vestry to pray. You’re now on fire for the service.
2) Intercessions
This is your big break. Aim for a minimum of 10-15 minutes. With practice and good preparation, you can work this up higher. Challenge yourself to make it longer than the sermon.  After all, no-one is going to stop you midstream whilst you are at prayer. And buy a good stop watch. This way you can aim to improve your personal best on each occasion.
3) Rota
Get your name on the intercessions rota twice. In this way your turn comes round more often.
4) Lists
Make good lists of those to pray for. It is customary in some churches to start with the sovereign. This is ideal as you can then work your way down the church hierarchy – the archbishops, diocesan bishops, archdeacons, rural deans, local vicars, and you can include other local churches and denominations too, taking care to omit any dubious door-knocking sects. Don’t forget the local schools, and the Fire Department and health services – hospitals and local doctor’s surgeries add nicely to the list and should all be named individually. Also, aim to include your own specific concerns such as Transgender Rights for North Sea Trawler Men or the East Midlands Chihuahua Rescue Centre, whatever your personal crusades are. This brings important personal issues to the congregation’s attention.
5) Use an IPad or tablet
This not only makes you look cool and modern but you can cross reference your prayers with poems, bible references and so on, so that you can draw on additional materials. You can also draw up a nice analogy with Moses’ tablets of stone (a little humour always works well and shows your human side) and hence build in a little mini-sermon on how you are just like Moses bringing God’s word to his people. Nice touch, eh?
 6) The Sick
Get to church early and go round everyone to ask who is sick and needs prayer. Everyone will be so astounded by your empathetic concern for the unwell that they will each give you at least 3 or 4 names, even if it’s only for ingrowing toenails or a cold. And voilà, you have another great list for prayer. Make sure to make careful notes to avoid praying for recovery for Joe Bloggs from his recent hysterectomy. In fact a basic knowledge of medical complaints is advisable. The best advice is to avoid anything to do with the nether regions or ‘down there.’ For some reason, piles are always a cause of great hilarity.
7) Pray for the church
Don’t forget the oft neglected folk on tea rotas, maintenance teams, knitting circles etc. and check that your list of names is up to date. This is also a great point to have a swipe at the vicar, church leaders or any other group that’s got on your nerves recently. Subtlety is the best weapon, a hint or innuendo is all that is needed to rattle the opposition. So, if you’re after the flower arrangers, thank them for all their hard work and say how nice it will be to have some fresh blooms in the church next week. Also include here any personal agenda items that have been ignored by the church council. Pray for them to happen. For instance your idea for building a mixed-sex prayer sauna room in the church hall would fit nicely in this slot. And include the minutiae of your idea so that it gets a proper public airing – for instance your suggestion for two separate saunas one for the evangelicals, one for the liberals.
8) Maintaining attention
You want everyone to hang on your every word. Therefore don’t include any congregational responses as this distracts from the articulate nature of your flow. Likewise avoid any periods of silence. You want people to listen to your prayers, and not go all reflective and meditative on you.
9) PowerPoint
Yes, it would be a nice opportunity to show off your PowerPoint skills but remember everyone’s eyes will be firmly closed and you’d only have to describe what is on each slide, so not a good idea.
 10) Feedback
And finally the golden rule. Never be disappointed if you don’t receive loud congratulations over coffee after the service and in fact find people are avoiding you. This is quite common and associated with their jealousy at your efforts. It is actually a great accolade and should spur you on to even greater things.
© R Palmer 2015

Preparing for Silence

Still my body from its work, Lord,
Still my body.
Hear my silent prayer.
Still my mind from its worry, Lord,
Still my mind.
Hear my silent prayer.
Still my heart from all grievance, Lord,
Still my heart.
Hear my silent prayer.
Still my spirit from all anguish, Lord,
Still my spirit.
Hear my silent prayer.
Lord, bring me to silence and stillness
Lord, bring me to silence and stillness
Lord, bring me to silence and stillness
Into the restfulness of my body, bring your healing.
In this silence, be with me.
Into the quiet of my mind, bring your thoughts.
In this silence, be with me.
Into the stillness of my heart, bring your love.
In this silence, be with me.
Into the peace of my spirit, bring your holiness.
In this silence, be with me.
Amen
© R Palmer 2015 These prayers can be used and reproduced freely for worship. Where they reproduced in print, in a church magazine or on the Web, we’d love to know. Please include a citation of their source thus: Reproduced from thespiritualgardener.com

50 Shades of Day

 

NottinghamI went on a creative outing last week with Street Wisdom in Nottingham. For the uninitiated, their enticing strapline is ‘Learning Takes to the Streets’ and the general idea is that ‘the environment and people around us are full of wisdom we largely overlook or ignore.’ We were briefed to take a question or problem with us that we were looking to solve and to use the creativity of the cityscape to review it anew. And so we met, a bit apprehensively from my point of view on Nottingham Town Hall steps, having already approached a couple of strangers to ask if they were Street Wisdom and getting some quizzical looks. I eventually found the group. Preliminaries out of the way, the session started with four quick exercises undertaken alone a 10 minute stroll in each case to 1) Go to what draws you; 2) Slow…right…down; 3) Look for patterns; 4) Look for beauty. This gave us the eyes to see and the ears to listen and honed our observational skills for the rest of the afternoon.
 Duly primed, we then went off on our Quest. This consisted of totally free-flow time of an hour, equipped only with a map tucked under our arm of where we were to congregate for our debriefing session, and with our problem to be solved tucked neatly in our mind. We could share our problem with the rest of the Wisdom seekers or keep it to ourselves but were encouraged to talk with people along the way and observe our environment.
 My Quest took me through a student part of the city where I found many new and exciting shops, purveying all sorts of goods and services and ending up in a cracking music shop where I spent a lively time discussing the merits of buying a new drum kit that I’d had my eyes on for some months, and had been prevaricating on the wisdom of so doing. .
 We met up in a pub for the wash up session, which spoke loudly to me. We had all had very different experiences in our discoveries and our adventures. And that’s where the 50 Shades of Day come in. We all found different shadings in the afternoon’s activity and took very different thoughts away from the day.  One of my observations was the detachedness of people in cities. Many were ensconced in their headsets with music or glued to their phones, texting and talking and very much missing that life was actually all around them. The flip side of that was sitting watching a terrier patiently observe its owner as he devoured a tub of ice cream. I had to sit and wait to watch the outcome. In the end, he got to lick the tub out. I was quite relieved as I was going to buy him a cornet if he hadn’t got his just desserts. It was a nice counterpoint, a glimpse of trust and sharing, mutuality and relationship in the frenzy of city life.
So what was Street Wisdom all about for me? You can call this what you like, but it certainly is a creative process, call it mindfulness, prayer, intuition, contemplation – depending what baseline you come from. It is a well-documented process, stepping out of your box to improve your creativity.  Einstein was a big believer in intuition and creativity and found music a great influence in his problem solving. And we all know the story of Archimedes nearly slipping up on the bar of soap as he leapt up in the bath with a flash of insight. Many artists and writers get their insightful breakthroughs on a walk in the great outdoors. Having done a lot of retreats of various lengths in my time, some in silence, it felt a bit like a mini-retreat to me, but with the added advantage of a top flight drum store on tap. And the whole session was free.
 So did I solve my problem? I got a lot of new thoughts and ideas on it and am developing some of them now. And the bonus ball was that I now also know I’m going to get that new drum kit, which one I’m going to get and the store where I’m going to buy it.
http://www.streetwisdom.org/about/

 

On the Birth of a Child

Making a decision to have a child is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body. ~ Elizabeth Stone
You finally made it, then, my baby,
So pleased to have you with me,
Now revealed safely in my arms,
Finally disembarked from the mother ship.
I’ve so much to tell you,
So many things to show you,
Friends to introduce, relatives to meet,
Books to read, songs to sing,
And to share the secret of God’s love for you.
But first things first.
And just now, my heart wells with joy
And brims with love
For the gift of you,
Sweet child of God.
Seed of my life,
For you, I will give my all,
And much more besides.
 God bless you, child,
As angels sing praises for your life,
I give thanks to you, our Creator God.
 Amen
© R Palmer 2015 These prayers can be used and reproduced freely for worship. Where they reproduced in print, in a church magazine or on the Web, we’d love to know. Please include a citation of their source thus: Reproduced from thespiritualgardener.com

Finding God in a Different Place

ShakespeareHarper Lee is a very famous author. In 1960, she published her first book, To Kill a Mocking Bird. It turned out to be her only book. Until now. After 55 years, there is great excitement that a second book is about to hit the bookstalls. In a recent survey of librarians in the UK, To Kill a Mocking Bird came out as their most highly recommended book. I’d never read it until 3 or 4 years ago, so I did. Or rather I didn’t. I got a third of the way through and it just didn’t ring my bell. I don’t know why, as it deals with some very important and poignant themes. I was a bit baffled by this until I heard a famous DJ say on his radio programme one day that the same had happened to him, he just didn’t get it.
There are other things I need to get off my chest too. U2, the renowned Irish band, have sold over 150 million records worldwide. They have won 22 Grammy awards and have been labelled the ‘Biggest Band in the World.’ As a rock music fan, I should love ‘em. But I just don’t get them. I don’t own any of their music and couldn’t hum you one of their tunes if you offered me a lottery win. And then there’s Shakespeare and I’m moving into even more dangerous territory here. As an avid reader and writer, I should be head over heels in love with his writing. His use of language is sublime. But put me in a pub quiz team and I couldn’t answer one question on him, other than the name of Romeo’s lover. Watching his plays, and I’ve tried, leaves me cold.
I’m sure some of you are now incensed. If you’d said the same about The Rolling Stones, George Orwell or Dylan Thomas, I’d be mad.
But the point is this. Just because the majority see something in these matters, doesn’t mean I or you must follow the crowd. We are all individuals and we develop our own perspectives, likes and dislikes and a set of principles and preferences that get us through life. And I’m comfortable to say that I’m very sorry Harper Lee, U2 and Shakespeare (an unlikely threesome, I’ll admit) but you don’t switch me on.
The same principle stands in our faith. The defined default setting for a ‘proper’ Christian faith is daily prayer, daily readings of the Bible and not missing a Sunday service. That is blindingly obvious to some and is how they feel comfortable living out their faith. But for others, it can be just the same as my lack of empathy for Bono and his mates, it doesn’t ring their bell. For instance, I find the place where I am closest to God is in silence and meditation. That works for me but for others that would be purgatory and to be avoided at all costs.
There’s a famous song by John Paul Young, called Love is in the Air. The tune is perhaps going through your head now you’ve read that last sentence (annoying when that happens, isn’t it?). The lyrics continue ……’everywhere I look around. Love is in the air, every sight and every sound.’ There should be a similar hymn that goes ‘God is in the air, Everywhere I look around. God is in the air, every sight and every sound.’  Because if we do believe in a creator God, who created the Universe, then he is in every part of that creation. God’s DNA is in everything –  in all of us and in everything on this Earth. Therefore finding God wherever is as valid a meeting point as a church on Sunday. We may meet him in the silence, in a walk in the sunshine, on a sunset beach, petting the dog, looking at a piece of art or photograph, in the garden, reading a poem, listening to a piece of music,, in the face of a child (okay, that’s enough examples, thanks, we’ve got the general idea – Ed).
The point is that church, regular prayer and Bible reading is a default setting where many feel they have a good chance of bumping into God, just like many think that by reading or watching Shakespeare, they stand a good chance of improving their education and gaining enjoyment.
But there are other ways of prayer, worship and encounters with God that may speak to you and can be perfectly valid in your relationship with the Creator, but which may have no appeal to others whatsoever. As I said earlier, ‘Love is in the air,’ and so is God. And his love for us is everlasting and unchanging no matter what. And no matter how, and no matter where we meet him, he still loves us all. Or as Shakespeare put it when he spoke of love – ‘Love is not love which alters when it alteration finds….O no, it is an ever-fixed mark that looks on tempests and is never shaken’. Actually my wife told me those lines some years ago. There are one or two bits he wrote that I like.
© R Palmer 2015

The Artist’s Way – by Julia Cameron


Recommending books to others is hard, because my preferences will not necessarily be yours. But this one really speaks to me and I believe has a universal value for anyone with any artistic leanings. By artistic, I mean anything creative, from painting to writing, baking to blogging, basket weaving to programming, you name it, whatever rings your bell.The book is a self-help tome – not my preferred reading genre – but this one has really kick-started me. This website and several other creative projects I have started recently emanate from reading this book.
The premise is stated on the cover  ”a twelve week course that guides you through the process of recovering your creative self. It dispels the ‘I’m not talented enough’ conditioning that holds many people back,” All those negative people in your life that have demeaned you get taken to task with this book.

Morning Pages

The book is packed with great quotes and exercises to help you recover your creative self. Two wonderfully powerful ideas come across to me. The first is her Morning Pages, three pages every morning of a stream of consciousness, written uncensored, as if no-one will ever read them .It is a powerful way of clearing all that dross in your mind before the day starts and getting it all down on paper – ideas, moans, whatever comes to mind . As Julia states ”Although occasionally colourful, the morning pages are often negative, frequently fragmented, often self-pitying, repetitive, stilted or babyish, angry or bland – even silly-sounding. Good!” I have been doing them for 5 months and don’t know how I did without them. The book states handwritten pages but my writing is so awful in these keyboard- driven days that I do mine password-protected on the laptop. There are also apps and sites that translate 3 pages as 750 words through the keyboard. I haven’t used these so can’t recommend any specifics here.

The Artist’s Date

 This is the second big idea that I find so rewarding, taking yourself alone, weekly, on a new experience. The idea is to free your inner child and fill that well of yours with creative ideas. So far, some of mine have included a trip to an Antiques Emporium, a museum, an art gallery, an hour in a pound store, Handel’s Messiah at a cathedral, a trip round a pottery factory, purchase of some creative off-the-wall magazines. All have been done in solitary and have been fun and rewarding, they are things I would not normally do and have in the main cost nothing or very little.
 If you are looking to free up your creativity, find your inner creative strength, then try this book. As the author says, “Creativity is God’s gift to us. Using our creativity is our gift back to God.”
See her site at http://juliacameronlive.com/

A Prayer for Alzheimer’s

It seems that when you have cancer you are a brave battler against the disease, but when you have Alzheimer’s you are an old fart. That’s how people see you. It makes you feel quite alone. ~ Terry Pratchett 
Lord Jesus Christ,
One of those I love is now lost to me.
Their mind is muddled
Their memories destroyed
Their vistas distorted.
They cannot remember,
They cannot recall.
Lord Jesus Christ, help me to remember the person. 
Lord, it is hard to answer the same questions
They ask me again and again.
And it is hard when they ask me who I am.
And it is hard when they cannot remember
The good times we spent, the hard times we overcame.
And it is hard when they are aggressive or unloving.
Lord Jesus Christ, help me to remember the person. 
Lord, if it were their body that was weakened,
I would still think they were themselves.
Help me to see that they are still there
Deep in their soul and being, they live on intact.
And it is only the filter of their mind that distorts.
They are still there.
Lord Jesus Christ, help me to remember that they are still there.
 Lord, bring your angels to surround them,
Your Holy Spirit to fill them,
Your love to encase them.
Touch all who care for them;
Uphold and bless their work.
Lord Jesus Christ, help me to remember that they are still there.
Lord Jesus Christ,
Bring me the patience to deal with their brokenness,
The heart to love them as they were,
And the vision to see through the mist of their demented lens.
Lord Jesus Christ, help me to remember the person.
Lord Jesus Christ, help me to remember that they are still there.
Amen
© R Palmer 2015 These prayers can be used and reproduced freely for worship. Where they reproduced in print, in a church magazine or on the Web, please include a citation of their source thus: Reproduced from thespiritualgardener.com