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Drawing the year to a close…

Posted on December 30th, 2012

It’s almost the end of the year, and I suppose it’s as good a time as any to reflect on the year that has been.  It’s been a busy and somewhat crazy one in many ways, but a very satisfying one, too.  I’ve sung for so many people this year and have had some great responses and I have been made so welcome by people around the country.  It’s been a year of expansion and expression of the divinity that surrounds us daily, but which we are often too busy or distracted to notice.

I saw an interesting post on Facebook earlier today.  It said the following:

‘Another year is drawing to a close, which gives an opportunity to look back and see once more what God has done for you during the last twelve months. It will amaze you just how many blessings have come your way!  At the same time it’s also good to look back over the year to consider what you have done for Him. It might amaze you how little it really is by comparison.’

I thought this was a really interesting meditation, and I have been thinking about it since.  I started to think about everything that I am grateful for this year, and so many things came to mind.  It’s so easy to be pessimistic at the moment with so many problems in the world, and especially perhaps as England has been suffering with the weather so much – we’re usually spared the up close and personal natural incidents – the mood of the world seems subdued.  But as I take some time out at the end of this year, I am full of gratitude.  For my friends, my family, for the work I am given to do, for the calling that I have, for the faith people show in me and the faith I show in them, and the little blessings that remind me that God is there, just over my shoulder.

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The Feast of the Cross

Posted on September 15th, 2012

Yesterday was The Feast of the Cross.  It has different names:

  • Greek – Raising Aloft of the Precious and Life-Giving Cross
  • Latin – The Exaltation of the Holy Cross
  • Sometimes – The Triumph of the Cross
  • Other times – Feast of the Glorious Cross

I’m sorry to say that this has passed me by until now, but I’ve been doing some reading and find it an interesting idea.

There are festival days for the cross on which Jesus was crucified throughout the year – 13th/14th September, 12th October, 6th March, 3rd May and 1st August as well, of course, Good Friday.  In the Orthodox tradition, every Wednesday and Friday hold commemorations of the cross.

I saw an interesting comment on an article recently, where someone said that Christianity didn’t begin and salvation didn’t start until Jesus resurrected.  I thought it was an interesting take but wasn’t convinced.  I have always thought of the resurrection and ascension as an affirmation of the divinity of Jesus, a way to reinforce the belief in him as the Messiah (fulfilment of prophecy etc.) but of the crucifixion as the more significant act.  I couldn’t quite get my head around the comment that suggested it was less important than the resurrection.

If I feel like I need to reconnect with God on an emotional level, I will read the Passion in the Bible or watch a film like ‘Mary, Mother of God’ or ‘The Passion of the Christ’.  Seeing the pain that Jesus suffered is often such an overwhelming experience that it engenders deep love and humility, even if just for a little while.

So, at this point in the year, a long time since/to Easter, stop and think of the cross.  What an amazing display of unconditional love.  If only we could learn to do the same.

The offering I would like to make to you today is the title track from my second album, ‘Can You Hear My Heart?’, which tells the story of the crucifixion from the perspective of a disciple watching on in despair.  The question, repeated again and again, is a plea for comfort from the crucified Jesus.  And at the end, the answer is given.

Can You Hear My Heart? – http://soundcloud.com/kathryn-crosweller/can-you-hear-my-heart

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On trust:

Posted on March 23rd, 2012

‘I will trust Him. Whatever, wherever I am, I can never be thrown away. If I am in sickness, my sickness may serve Him; in perplexity, my perplexity may serve Him; if I am in sorrow, my sorrow may serve Him. My sickness, or perplexity, or sorrow may be necessary causes of some great end, which is quite beyond us. He does nothing in vain.’ – John Henry Newman

I have often contemplated on trust, as I’m sure many Christians have.  It seems to be a topic which arises particularly when I am struggling in some way – whether that be in understanding my purpose, things not going my way or feeling unsatisfied with some aspect of my life.  I can remember being a teenager and people telling me in that patronising voice ‘you’ll get used to it’ or ‘you’ll understand it when you’re older’, or the most frustrating, ‘you’re so young!’  It would drive me mad!  Unfortunately they were right (of course) and now, although I’m still only 25, I find myself using the same phrases sometimes.

I appreciate every difficult situation I have ever experienced, because I can see precisely how they have prepared me for the roles I fulfil and the tasks I complete in life now.  And yet, having this knowledge and understanding the role that suffering has played in my life so far (to a greater or lesser degree), I still find myself resisting and complaining when I am presented with opportunities to grow.  I can semi-remember a quote which is about how God answers prayers in the most unexpected ways, and trying to Google it has led me to see testimony upon testimony of people writing about how their prayers have been answered unexpectedly.

I know in my heart of hearts that I don’t need to worry.  I have had so many personal experiences of God working my own life, of prayers being answered and of situations working out just perfectly, and with hindsight I have developed an understanding of the way that everywhere I end up is helping me to grow in some way.  So why is trust so difficult to maintain?

I suppose the one consolation is that Jesus understood the weakness of human nature.  When he called Peter towards him and Peter doubted, it is almost as if he is consoling him; ‘Oh you of little faith’ as one might comfort a child who has fallen over and grazed their knee.  But the beauty of experience and hindsight is that we can piece together the proof of God’s love in our own lives.  We can understand how God has worked in our lives in the personal and subtle ways that only we can recognise, leading us to trust in Him again and again.  And in that there is a great reassurance.

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‘Leave me alone with God as much as may be…’

Posted on March 22nd, 2012

This prayer by Saint Aidan of Lindisfarne is one which often plays on my mind.  He is a saint renowned for ‘cultivating peace and love, purity and humility’, and that opening line is definite food for thought.

I have lived on my own for 3 years and have grown to really love the solitude and freedom that it gives me.  However, I often waste time as I’m sure everyone does.  I give myself excuses for why I can’t do certain things or why I will do them later than I should…probably a common confession.  But I wonder if there’s a link between the opening line of his prayer, ‘leave me alone with God as much as may be…’  and his qualities.

When you’re on your own it’s easy to think that you can do what you want because no one’s watching.  I am sure that if the Jesus of biblical times came to stay with me, I would use my time in a very different way!  I would keep my house as clean as possible, I would spend as much time with him as I could and I would consider his teachings much more often than I currently do.  I would also try to be peaceful, act lovingly towards both other people and animals, and I would try to live with purity and humility as Aidan is believed to have done.

Why would I do this with Jesus and not with others?  If Jesus feels the least thing that we do for or another, then isn’t that the same thing?  But it’s an awful lot harder to remain peaceful around people who you find challenging, or to act out of love towards someone who pushes all your buttons!  Maybe by being left alone with God we are given the chance to develop these qualities which we can then put into practice with others.

Who knows?  But it’s a good prompt for me to start trying to use my time more efficiently at home!

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Why doesn’t God jump in?

Posted on March 20th, 2012

‘…things in life can be good or evil, depending on what, with free will, we do with them.  Speech can bless or curse.  Money can save or destroy.  Science can heal or kill.  Even nature can work for you or against you: fire can warm or burn, water can sustain life or flood it away.’ – Mitch Albom

I love Mitch Albom.  I’ve only read two of his books (Tuesdays with Morrie and Have a Little Faith), but both have been life-changing reading experiences for me.  Perhaps the basis of each book (conversations with men who have inspired Albom and who are dying as the story unfolds) strikes a chord, but for whatever reason they are breathtaking.

I read this quote again this evening when I was thinking of something to write.  A few weeks ago I agreed with a friend that we would send each other a text message with one exciting thing that we did or saw or experienced every day.  It was a great experiment and really helped me to be the most positive I could be.  Perhaps this blog will do the same – help me to focus on God every single day.  That would be great!!

So my musing for this evening.  It isn’t about free will, which is what Mitch is discussing with the Reb in this extract from Have a Little Faith.  It’s about the choices that we make in life.  Something which I’ve been thinking about for a long time is our nature: should we try to change the people that we are to become better or more ‘God-like’, or should we embrace who we are because that’s the way we were made?  I haven’t yet come to a conclusion on this one, even after several years of thinking about it!  I can’t help but think that perhaps it would be nice if God would just jump in and give me the answer!

Many of the guidelines in the Bible and in the lives of saints which people may follow can, I think, be condensed into one word: love.  It’s an instruction, a state of being, a way of life, a philosophy, a description of God.  Love.  I want with all my heart to love my neighbour, as Jesus taught.  Being human makes that a bit difficult, and probably the thing I struggle with the most.  I frequently ask myself: if I can’t love such-and-such, how can I call myself a Christian?  And perhaps the answer lies in the saying – you don’t go to God because you’re perfect; you go because you know you’re not perfect.

I am a work in progress, as we all are.  But on this path it’s very difficult not to give yourself a hard time when you don’t live up to the standards you set for yourself.  Try this one on for size – 

Maybe it’s not that hard to become the people that God made us to be after all?

When I first started walking along this path of faith, people would often recommend books to me.  I found it really hard to motivate myself to read any of them, always believing that if I was meant to learn something it would happen in my life, and I would learn it first hand.  I’m glad to say that I have read and benefited from many books since then, but I do think there is some truth in it.  Perhaps it’s all interwoven – to live in love, through love and by love is to connect with God and to fulfil our purpose, and in doing so we can quiet the struggles in our souls.

And so the journey continues…

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Looking at the world with fresh eyes…

Posted on March 19th, 2012

I went to Bristol today on a school trip and had a very interesting conversation with a colleague.  She was noticing things which I had ceased to see – the way birds were making their nests, deer in a forest (I was sad I didn’t see that!), the size of different houses as we drove past…and I was astonished about how unobservant I have become.  When I voiced this to her, she told me that this was the first spring she has seen in England for 8 years, having been in Africa with Mercyships.

This made me reflect on how much we take for granted, and this evening I went for a long walk in the countryside.  I noticed the way that the trees were growing, the way that leaves lie on the ground, the sound that the birds were making and the feeling of being part of this beautiful, incredible creation.  I took a photo of the sunset, just to remind me of that feeling.

Can we appreciate things every day, in every moment?  Or do we need to become numb to them so that we can discover them again in joy?  I suppose that is the same question as ‘if there was no suffering, could we enjoy happiness?’ and other variants on that theme.  Perhaps we can come to a point where we derive joy from everything we encounter, seeing the presence of God in the world and rejoicing in it.

Here is a video I was shown recently which is truly incredible.  This is part 3 of 5, but all of them are breathtaking.  I was left speechless by the beauty of the universe, and I hope that you will be, too –Louie Giglio, ‘Indescribable’

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An introduction to blogging…

Posted on March 18th, 2012

As I was singing at a concert last night I was overcome with a feeling that God was calling me to share not only my music but also my experiences with the world, so here I am, blogging!

It all started when I was 17…all those many (8!) years ago!  I had visited the Taizé community in France and had experienced such a deep sense of spirituality that I  came home burning with a desire to spend my life singing to God with the simplicity and humility that I had seen and felt at Taizé.  I have since released two albums of ecumenical music which have aimed to encompass the inclusiveness and reality of the music at Taizé; I also run a monthly Taizé service, I have given concerts, I have sung at weddings and funerals, and even at a festival attended by nearly 10,000 people!

However, it’s not just singing that I do to serve God.  I am also an RE teacher in a secondary school in Dorset.  One thing I really love about teaching is that I spend a lot of my time speaking to young people about things they are struggling with in their lives.  This has given me such a great opportunity to connect with people and to learn more about myself as well as about them.  By spending time talk to them I have become more aware of God working through me, making them feel valued and cared for.

So that’s where I am at the moment!  I’m really looking forward to this blogging experience! 🙂

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