“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace.’’
Matthew 11 :28, The Message
Those words, spoken by Jesus some 2000 years ago, are as pertinent and applicable as ever. We begin 2021 with our world in an extraordinary mess, and with many of us tired and worn out after a year dominated by Covid-19 and all the associated challenges and restrictions. But life and work continue, and we believe in a God of hope who loves us as His children, and who has purposes for us to live out. So what does it mean for us to walk with Him this year? How can we learn some unforced rhythms of grace that will serve us each day in our lives and in our practice?Being a vet is a joy and a calling. It is also tough, demanding and can be all consuming. How do we develop Godly resilience so that we not only survive as vets but thrive? The new year can serve as a useful opportunity to develop new spiritual rhythms that provide anchor points during our day and week to keep us rooted and grounded in God’s love and in who He says we are. Sadly, our daily activity can often be the starting point to us living lives characterised by striving, self-reliance and stress – when we listen more to the voices of others that fill our minds with expectations, comparisons, and doubt. The critical voice of a boss or partner, the tension with a colleague, the difficult confrontation with a client, the operation that went wrong – this can all lead to self-doubt, recrimination, negative comparisons, anxiety and fear about our own capabilities. We try to become more resilient by working harder, striving more, relying on our strength, locking away our fears and appearing competent because of the perceived expectations of others. This is exhausting. And also counterproductive. Jesus’ invitation is to walk with Him and work with Him in partnership. But how do we do this in the middle of a busy day?
One tool that can be very useful as an anchoring point is Breath Prayer. Breath prayer is a really simple way of allowing short, heartfelt prayers and praises to become as natural as breathing as we go through our day. You combine a name of God with a phrase of petition or praise and use the rhythm of your breathing to pray; you are literally breathing in God’s word and breathing out your fears, needs, and longings. For example: as in you inhale, “Father God...” and as you exhale “I am yours”. Or “Almighty God...help me now”. My most often used is “You are God...I am not”, which serves to remind me that He is in charge and I don’t have to fix this myself !Breath Prayer can be done throughout the day as you go about your normal life. A useful trigger to when you need to use Breath Prayer is to pay attention to your own body. Where is there tension? Perhaps tight fists, a knot in your stomach, tense shoulders, a sore head. What is your body telling you? Stop, pay attention, breathe, let go. Paying attention is important to notice what God is doing in our lives and where He is inviting us to grow. As a Life Coach, what I talk about most is awareness – the more we understand ourselves, the more we are able to let God love us and to live a thriving life as the people He made us to be. Life is busy and full, and all too often we hurtle through our days and weeks with little time to stop and reflect on where God is in it all. When the negative voices that we listen to are louder than those of God and His Word, the impact can be that we live dominated by those thoughts. We believe we have to be strong and capable, holding it all together, to be seen to be coping, managing our cases and case load well, succeeding, putting on a strong front. We live in a frenzy of busyness and attempt to become strong and self-reliant, not God reliant. Any of this sound familiar?But the wonderful thing about partnering with Jesus in our lives each day is that we are not alone! God is intimately involved in our lives and has unlimited resources to help us. His encouragement to us could not be clearer:
‘Commit everything you do to the Lord. Trust Him and He will help you. The Lord directs the steps of the godly. He delights in every detail of their lives. Though they stumble, they will never fall, for the Lord holds them by the hand.’
Psalm 37:5, 23,24 New Living Translation
Prayer of Examen
Another wonderful spiritual practice that can help us grow in our awareness of where and how God is partnering with us each day is the Prayer of Examen. The Prayer of Examen is a prayerful reflection on the events of the day to help us to detect God’s presence and discern His direction for us. First described by the 16thcentury Spanish priest Ignatius of Loyola, the Examen is an ancient spiritual practice that can help us see God’s hand at work in our whole experience. The Examen is not simply about me saying, I’m going to review my day. The Examen is about me creating space for God to show me my day. It is a simple process that probably takes about 10 minutes. You are looking back at your day with God (or if you prefer doing this in the morning, looking back at the previous day), asking Him to show you what was good, where you might have missed Him, and what you are learning about yourself and Him. Busyness, striving and negative voices can make it easy for us to focus too much on who we are not and what we cannot do. The Examen is a wonderful way to take time with God to celebrate who you are and what you CAN do, what you have been able to achieve with His help. Gratitude and celebration are powerful tools to combat the negative voices that tend to eat away at our resilience. A simple tool like the Examen gives us a structure to grow in self-awareness. Until we can see and understand what is going on, we are not able to do anything about making the changes that we need to make to enable us to learn and grow in our character and spiritual development. As I heard recently – we don’t learn from our experiences, we learn from reflecting on our experiences. And learning to know ourselves takes time, patience and effort to commit to self-reflection. I love this quote by John Ortberg from “The Me I want to Be”
“God isn’t at work producing the circumstances YOU want. He is at work in bad circumstances producing the you that HE wants.”
So who is the YOU that God is producing this year? We would love to invite you to spend an evening with us exploring some of these themes and ideas in more detail. Ian has been a vet in practice for over 30 years and is now the CVO of the Scottish SPCA. As such, he has some experience of learning how to let go of striving and self-reliance and learn to partner with Jesus each day in his work. Catriona has been married to him for 27 years, so has some experience of the impact of living alongside the challenges and demands of veterinary life. She is also a Life Coach who is passionate about equipping people with practical tools to enable them to live a full and thriving life. We will be presenting an evening via Zoom on Tuesday 23rd February from 7.30pm. This will be a combination of some teaching from us and lots of space to practice and experience these tools, as well as a guided meditation on Matthew 11. “Walk with Me and work with Me.” What a great way to start this year!
More information about this Zoom can be found by clicking here.