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From the moment we are born we long to hear words of gentle comfort and kindness. As we move into adulthood we still enjoy hearing and reading words of kindness, because they speak to us at the deepest level. Bearing this in mind, this week we open with the most famous and beloved reading in the Bible – Psalm 23. We have included another Psalm with this, number 15, and putting a slightly different slant on these words of comfort, have chosen a fresh translation from John Eaton.
This week we have also included two prayers from Teresa of Avila, and from another master of the language of peace – John O’Donohue, with his Blessing for Presence. For the second week in succession we have included a work by the American poet Jane Kenyon. This poem just seemed right for today’s theme. It is called Happiness.
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Very best wishes
With the Lord as my shepherd,
I shall not be in want.
In green pastures he will let me lie;
by still waters he will lead me.
He will restore my soul;
he will guide me in ways of salvation for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk in the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil;
for you will be with me;
your rod and your crook will comfort me.
You have prepared a table before me,
a sign to my foes;
you have anointed my head with oil;
my cup runs over.
Truly, goodness and love will follow me
all the days of my life,
and I shall come home to the house of the Lord for ever.
Lord, who will be welcome in your tent,
who may stay on your holy mountain?
One who walks whole,
and ever does what is just;
who speaks truth even in his heart,
and bears about no slander on his tongue;
who does his fellow no harm,
and raises no abuse against his neighbour;
who is lowly in his own eyes and humble,
but honours those who fear the Lord;
though his pledge prove to his disadvantage,
he will not go back on his word;
he does not lend his money to make ruthless gain,
and he takes no reward against the innocent.
Whoever keeps to these words
shall never be overthrown.
PRAYERS OF COMFORT
Teresa of Avila (1515-1582)
May today there be peace within,
May you trust your highest power,
so that you are exactly
Where you are meant to be.
May you not forget
the infinite possibilities
that are born of faith.
May you use those gifts
you have received
and pass on the love
that has been given you.
May you be content
knowing you are a child of God.
Let this presence
settle in your bones,
and allow your soul the freedom
to sing and dance.
It is there for each and every one of you.
Let nothing disturb you,
Let nothing frighten you,
All things are passing away:
God never changes.
Patience obtains all things.
Whoever has God needs nothing;
God alone suffices.
John O’Donohue (1956-2008)
Awaken to the mystery of being here and enter the quiet immensity of your own presence.
Have joy and peace in the temple of your senses.
Receive encouragement when new frontiers beckon.
Respond to the call of your gift and the courage to follow its path.
Let the flame of anger free you of all falsity.
May warmth of heart keep your presence aflame.
May anxiety never linger about you.
May your outer dignity mirror an inner dignity of soul.
Take time to celebrate the quiet miracles that seek no attention.
Be consoled in the secret symmetry of your soul.
May you experience each day as a sacred gift woven around the heart of wonder.
Jane Kenyon (1947-1995)
There’s just no accounting for happiness,
or the way it turns up like a prodigal
who comes back to the dust at your feet
having squandered a fortune far away.
And how can you not forgive?
You make a feast in honour of what
was lost, and take from its place the finest
garment, which you saved for an occasion
you could not imagine, and you weep night and day
to know that you were not abandoned,
that happiness saved its most extreme form
for you alone.
No, happiness is the uncle you never
knew about, who flies a single-engine plane
onto the grassy landing strip, hitchhikes
into town, and inquires at every door
until he finds you asleep mid-afternoon
as you so often are during the unmerciful
hours of your despair.
It comes to the monk in his cell.
It comes to the woman sweeping the street
with a birch broom, to the child
whose mother has passed out from drink.
It comes to the lover, to the dog chewing
a sock, to the pusher, to the basket-maker,
and to the clerk stacking cans of carrots
in the night.
It even comes to the boulder
in the perpetual shade of pine barrens,
to rain falling on the open sea,
to the wineglass, weary of holding wine.