21st August

Temptation

Now Jesus can help those who are tempted because he himself was tempted in all ways as we are. Hebrews 2: 18

If you fall into temptation in the place where you live, do not desert that place when the temptation comes; for if you do, you will find that, wherever you go, the temptation you are running away from will be there ahead of you.
Sayings of the Desert

God’s will would I do
My own will bridle.
God’s due would I give
My own due yield.
God’s path would I follow
My own path refuse.
Christ’s death would I ponder
My own death remember.
Christ’s agony would I meditate
My love to God make warmer.
Christ’s cross would I carry
My own cross forget.
Repentance of sin would I make
Early repentance choose.
The love of Christ would I feel
My own love know.
Carmina Gadelica

O Christ, the Champion of the tests
When the first thought strikes, help me to resist
When the first look overwhelms, help me to resist
When the first fascination takes hold, help me to resist.
If I fall, save me

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20th August

God Can Speak Through An Infant

Out of the mouth of infants you have ordained strength, in order to stop anyone who opposes you. Psalm 8: 2

Sometimes small children blurt out something which communicates God’s heart in a way that an adult cannot. The reason is that children pick up the spirit of a person or a place more quickly than do adults, who have protected themselves with layers of sophistication. It was an infant having a Spirit-led tantrum who caused the boy Cuthbert to think again about his life.

For the first eight years of his life Cuthbert had a mind for nothing except games, pranks, and careering around. He used to boast that he had beaten all those of his own age, as well as many older boys, at wrestling, jumping, running and many other exercises. When the others were tired out he would look around in triumph as though he was ready to start afresh.

One day a great crowd of children were playing together in a field, twisting around in all sorts of contortions. Suddenly a three year old rushed up to Cuthbert and began to scold him in the way an adult would. He told him he should not spend all his time just mucking about, but should exercise control of mind over body. Cuthbert pooh poohed the idea, at which the little boy promptly went into a tantrum. He tearfully told Cuthbert that God wanted him to be a holy priest and leader in the church, so how could he waste his life doing things that were against his nature and his calling?

Cuthbert soothed the child in a friendly way, and did, in fact, go home at once to think about what had been said. From that time people noticed that he behaved in a more mature way, and they concluded that the Spirit who spoke to him through the words of an infant, spoke to him also in the recesses of his heart.

I pray, Lord, for the children whom I know.
Help me to encourage them
to listen to the thoughts and pictures
you put into their minds.
Help me to humbly receive what they tell me,
and to keep at least half an ear cocked
for your voice coming to me through them

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19th August

Simplicity

God made us simple, but we have made ourselves very complicated. Ecclesiastes 7: 29

David gave the Welsh people rules to help them live simply for God. A growing number of Christians make a Rule of Life today. Some do it for the good of their soul, others do it for the good of the poor in other countries who receive unjust payment for what they produce; some do it for the good of nature, to prevent natural resources being squandered.

William Penn the Quaker observed: ‘People must follow the 10 commandments of God or they condemn themselves to the 10,000 commandments of men’. The saying of Jesus in Matthew 5.8 basically means ‘Blessed is the person whose motives are unmixed.’ Consider the effects of being pulled in more than one direction: Stress levels, and the vast increase in National Health requirements; dishonesty, and the vast increase in bureaucracy; family break-down. Even in the church, it can mean committees and meetings to satisfy every conflicting demand. These use up the energy and time that should be directed to one purpose only: being Jesus for others.

We wish to ‘live simply that others may simply live’, to avoid any sense of judging one another; and God will make different demands of each of us. Our common responsibility is to regularly hold before God (and, as appropriate, to share with our Soul Friend) our income, our savings, our possessions, conscious that we are stewards, not possessors of these things, and making them available to him as he requires.

A simple lifestyle means setting everything in the simple beauty of creation. Our belongings, activities and relationships are ordered in a way that liberates the spirit; we cut out those things that overload or clutter the spirit.
From the Way of Life of The Community of Aidan and Hilda

Too long have I worried about so many things.
And yet, my Lord, so few are needed.
May I today live more simply – like the bread.
May I today see more clearly – like the water.
May I today be more selfless – like the Christ.
From Russia

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18th August

Authority

The crowd was amazed at the way Jesus taught. He wasn’t like the teachers of the Law; instead, he taught with authority. Matthew 7: 28, 29

There are two kinds of authority – outer and inner. Outer authority is often decried, but inner authority, though it is so elusive, is widely desired. It was this kind of authority that drew so many people to Jesus, and still does draw them. David had this kind of authority too.

One hundred and eighteen British church leaders, concerned lest the people no longer followed their lead, called a major synod for leaders and members of churches at a place named Brevi. David, who was not interested in church politics, stayed away. So many people came to the synod that they had to pile clothing to create a mound from which the speakers could be seen and heard. But speaker after speaker failed to get the ear of the people, and the leaders panicked, lest the the people returned disillusioned with the organised church. Then Paulinus, under whom David had studied, urged that they bring David to the synod, for he ‘conversed with angels, was a man to be loved’, and had stature. Three times David refused the invitation, until his holy old friend Bishop Dubricius personally went to him. The modest David told him ‘I can’t preach but I will give what little help I can with my prayers’.

As they reached the outskirts of the crowd David heard the wailing of mourners. Dubricius wanted to hurry him on to the platform, but David insisted on going to the bereaved person, a mother whose son lay dead. He comforted the mother, who begged him to restore her son. David spent more time praying over the son, who revived. She instantly dedicated him to serve God under David. David gave this young man the Gospel Book he carried, and he walked with it in front of David to the front. All eyes followed them, word spread fast, and there was a clamour for David to speak. For years afterwards people swore that that mound of clothes grew bigger as David spoke. For he spoke with authority and not as others had done. His heart was to be with the people in all their needs, not to be up front. But the people’s heart went out to him, and through him to God. That is true authority. A church in Wales recently spent time meditating on the ‘mound’. In what areas does God want you to grow authority? True authority makes its mark through prayer and service.

God take from me delusions of grandeur.
Give to me the authority that belongs to me.
May it grow through prayer and service

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17th August

Rapport

Friends always show their love. What are brothers for if not to share trouble? Proverbs 17: 17

I have been to a number of Christian communities where brothers or sisters seem to flow together in mutual love. They have trust in their eyes, and esteem in their hearts for one another, and they help each other in practical ways. That spirit marked David and his brothers, as the stories about Brother Aidan reveal.

Aidan was one of David’s inner circle of three from the beginning whom the biographer describes as ‘being alike of one mind and desire’. Once Aidan was studying one of the monastery’s books, which had no doubt been painstakingly transcribed, out of doors, when David asked him to go on an errand; this involved taking two oxen and a wagon to carry some timber which was some distance away. Aidan was, as always, so keen to carry out errands in a good spirit that he left immediately; leaving his precious book still open. Having harnessed the oxen, loaded the wagon with the timber, and begun his return journey, the wagon and oxen careered over a cliff. Aidan made the sign of the Cross over them, and retrieved them safely from the sea. Further on the journey there was such a downpour that the ditches overflowed, and Aidan then thought of that precious book!

Having unloaded the timber he went back for the book, no doubt thinking of the damage the downpour had done to it He found it, however, in exactly the same condition as it was when he left it. The brothers felt that the humility and faith in the way Aidan carried out the errand had provided a shield for the oxen, and that David’s fatherly faith on behalf of his dear brother had provided a shield for the book.

Aidan’s rapport with David at a deep spiritual level continued when he moved far away to Ireland, where he founded a monastery. One day before Easter Eve he was praying in the monastery, when he ‘knew’ that someone would poison David’s food at their Easter Day supper. He sent one of his monks, who managed, with divine guidance, to cross the sea and reach David in time to tell him.

May the great God be between your two shoulders
To protect you in your going and your coming.
May the Son of Virgin Mary be near your heart
And the perfect Spirit be upon you pouring.
Carmina Gadelica

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16th August

To Work Is To Pray

St. Paul wrote: When we were with you we used to say to you ‘Anyone who is unwilling to work should not eat’. 2 Thessalonians 3: 10

David’s monastery became a byword for honest, hard manual work. The monks did not hire oxen to do the ploughing, they did it themselves, placing the wooden beam which drew the plough on to their own sweating shoulders; they tirelessly dug the ground with picks, spades and hoes; and they cut wood with saws. Each person meditated while he worked; they only spoke when they needed to.

No complaints were heard at the end of a hard day’s work, when they returned to the cloisters for a period of study, prayer and writing. The instant the church bell rang they would leave whatever they were doing, however absorbing, and go silently to the church to chant psalms. Visitors noticed that both their voices and their hearts were in tune. They spent the time before nightfall in silent prayer in the church. After the brothers had left, David would stay alone in the church, pouring out his prayers.

The food and drink at supper was sparing but creative. Special dishes were cooked for the frail, and for visitors who were weary after a long journey. Before retiring to bed the monks kept vigil in church for three hours, avoiding the common pitfalls of sneezing, yawning and spitting! At cock-crow they would get up and have a prayer time, and on Saturday nights, imitating the women who went to Jesus’ tomb the night before his resurrection, they kept vigil until the early hours of Sunday.

The monks wore simple clothes, mainly leather. They shared their hearts and their failings openly with David, who was a real father to them. And they accepted his authority, willingly carrying out practical requests without question.

None of them had any personal possessions, not even a psalm book. The ‘this is mine’ mentality did not mar the monastery. When someone joined the monastery they had to dispose of their wealth before entering, but David would not accept a penny of it for the monastery, and he declined donations from people who wanted to control them. Like the Taize Community of today, the entire income of the monastery came through the work of the monks, and they each had an equal share.

Teach me, good Lord, to work with all my heart
until it can be said of me
‘to work is to pray’

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15th August

Overcome Evil

Do not let evil defeat you; instead, overcome evil with good. Romans 12: 21

In the reading two days ago we learned how David and his friends were divinely directed to build their headquarters in a different place. Having done that, they had to learn the hard lesson that being in the place of God’s choosing does not make us immune to opposition. Once God’s kingdom gets a foothold, things that are not of God in that place, however well established, come under threat; so they react, sometimes ferociously.

First came the honeymoon. Many Christians gathered to celebrate the opening of David’s new centre in the place which was then known as Rosina Vallis. They lit a bonfire which seemed to encircle the whole area with the presence of God, and even to light up Ireland as well. Then came the reaction. The local big-wig, the pagan Baia, went berserk when he saw the crowds and the engulfing smoke, which seemed to symbolise the very thing that would happen to the region under the influence of David.

Baia’s wife persuaded him to retaliate. They armed their slaves with knives who set out to kill the monks. On their way, however, they were afflicted with sudden fever. On arrival all they had strength for was to hurl four-letter words at the monks; they had to return with their mission unaccomplished. Before they reached the gates, Baia’s wife rushed towards them: the cattle too, had been infected and had died. ‘Go back to the servant of God’, she told them, ‘and ask him to pray God to have mercy on the cattle’. They told David ‘The land where you have settled shall be yours for ever’. ‘Your cattle shall come to life again’, he responded! And both things came true.

Baia’s wife soon reverted to spite. She forced her female servants to undress in full view of the monks every day. This torpedoed their aim of being single minded. They became so demoralised that a delegation urged David to re-locate the monastery elsewhere. This was David’s reply: ‘You know that the world hates Christ’s followers. You know that God’s people Israel faced innumerable setbacks on their desert trek to the Promised Land. They were beaten to their knees, but not overthrown. Learn from them not to let evil overcome us but to overcome evil with good’. The monks stood firm. Not long after this Baia’s jealous wife killed a step- daughter and fled, and an enemy murdered Baia.

Director, Saviour, Strengthener, help me to stand firm
and to overcome evil with good

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14th August

Piran – Working For Good

You will earn the trust and respect of others if you work for good; if you work for evil, you are making a mistake. Proverbs 14: 22

Buried beneath the sands near Perran-Zabulo in Cornwall lies the remains of a prayer cell built by Piran, a monk who landed here in the fifth century. A tall Celtic cross now stands beside it. Although little else is now known about Piran, his life has inspired many working people throughout the centuries in the West Country of Britain and in Britanny. The Cornish tin miners made him their patron and celebrated his festival on March 5 with great fervour.

This development can encourage us to be aware, in our everyday work, of the example of Christians who treated their work as prayer in action; also, to be aware of the presence of heavenly persons, inspiring us to link our work with the relationships we have with others on earth and in heaven.

I will build the hearth
As Mary would build it.

Who are they on the lawn outside?
Michael the sun-radiant of my trust.
Who are they on the middle of the floor?
John and Peter and Paul.
Who are they on the front of my bed?
Sun-bright Mary and her Son.

I am smooring the fire as the Son of Mary would smoor.
(i.e.damp the overnight fire with ashes)
Carmina Gadelica

I see to the fridge in the presence of the angel of the loveliest delights
I see to the washer in the presence of Mary of the pure-white demeanour
I see to the garage in the presence of Joseph of the fine workmanship
I see to the office in the presence of the Creator of order
I see to the people I shall meet in the presence of the all-friendly Christ
I see to the things that will batter my mind
in the presence of the Spirit who brings calm

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13th August

God-Inspired Locations

The Lord rejected the descendants of Joseph, he did not select the tribe of Ephraim; instead he chose the tribe of Judah, and Mount Zion, which he dearly loves. There he built his temple like his home in heaven … He chose his servant David. Psalm 78: 67 -70

Before David of Wales embarked on his great apostolic mission he and some close friends had waited on God in the shadow of the Black Mountains. There they built a chapel and a cell, where Llanthony Abbey now stands. They took it for granted that on their return they would establish their permanent headquarters there.

However, the mission opened David’s eyes. During a conversation back at the home base with his uncle, Bishop Giuisdianus, David said: ‘My angel companion told me that in this place which I intend to make my base scarcely one person in a hundred will gain their eternal reward, but there is another place not far away, where hardly any of those buried in the Christian cemetery will be cut off from God’.

That is how David and his friends were guided by God to change their plans, and to build a large, permanent centre in the valley where David was born, near the site of today’s St. David’s Cathedral.

Are you willing to change your plans? Are you allowing God to show you larger horizons, different approaches to mission? God wants to give you a feel for the spirit of people and places, so that you move in inspired ways, to inspired places, with inspired timings, and so that you experience inspired outcomes. Why not apply the following prayer to a place that God is laying upon your heart?

O God,
although you do not live in man-made temples
you choose to work through them.
Pour down your blessing upon this place
and all who minister here
that it may be a strength to those who have oversight
a joy and inspiration to all faithful Christians
a home of prayer and devotion
setting forth to the world a pattern of
true holiness and worship.
From the Prayer of St. David’s Cathedral, adapted

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12th August

Win All People By All Means

The people tried to prevent Jesus from leaving, but he said to them: I must preach the Good News about the Kingdom of God in other towns also because this is what God sent me to do’. Luke 4: 42, 43

David’s ministry in Wales started with a splash. The priest who baptised him was assisted by a blind man named Movi who immersed David under the water. Some of this water splashed over Movi’s eyes and he regained his sight. It seems that God gave David a healing touch with eyes, as the following story of Paulinus illustrates.

David was ordained and trained under Paulinus, who had a reputation as ‘a fosterer of righteousness’, somewhere in Carmarthenshire. During those years Paulinus’ eyesight deteriorated badly, and one day he invited each of his pupils to come up in turn and pray for his eyes, making the sign of the cross over them. The young David, who was shy, and who had had no eye contact with his esteemed mentor, held back, but Paulinus said to him: Touch my eyes, and, even without you looking at me, I shall be healed’. His sight did indeed return, and David’s stature increased.

After several years there Paulinus felt God saying: ‘Dewi’ (the Welsh name for David) ‘has used the talents I have given him as fully as he can while he is here. Now I want to send him out so that he can use different approaches to win as many people as possible, from different walks of life, to my way. He must be free to give strong food to strong people, and milk to weak people’. Paulinus commissioned David to go out and ‘win bundles of souls’.

David did just that, he gathered a mission team and established monastic centres in twelve key places, some as far from Wales as Glastonbury, Bath, and Crowland. He also helped families and people in ordinary jobs to lead a Christian life. It was said that the Mission Team gave four rules to the people: 1. pray; 2. watch; 3. work; 4. abstain from strong drink. David and his team became ‘all things to all people’.

Great God, who called your servant David
to be an apostle and father in God to the people of Wales
grant that, inspired by the fire of his faith
and the flexibility of his approach
we too may see divine fruit in our land

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