Ride the Waves

A few days ago, while sea swimming in freezing water with the wind whipping across our faces, a friend and I compared notes. 

Already, it’s been a start-stop kind of a year. We entered the first week of January, ready to face it head-on. And then, a few days later… crash. Things were being canceled. People were isolating due to COVID. Possibilities for the coming months were thrown back into uncertainty. Plans we thought were coming into fruition became dormant once again. 

As our words volleyed between us over the frothy waves, I discovered that someone else had a similar week. 

Maybe you did, too. 

The waves of this pandemic have tossed us about, and sometimes we try to fight against them, willing ourselves to go in a certain direction but meeting resistance from a force much greater than ourselves. 

Yet in that moment of frolicking in the waves, naming the frustration at our good intentions being thwarted so quickly in the New Year, we were actually living into another way of being. 

Rather than fighting the waves, we were riding them. Rather than pushing in a direction of our own choosing, we were allowing ourselves to be guided by a force greater than our own. 

I’ve been sea swimming regularly for 2 1/2 years now, and I’ve learned an immense amount about how to read the waves, swim safely, and recognize my limits. There are times when we simply need to stand on solid ground and resist the pull that would take me towards danger. 

But there are many, many days when little resistance is needed. The waves come again and again, we greet them with a jump or a dive, we swoop up in the air as the waves crest, we whoop at being carried down again in that moment of delight. 

There’s definitely something to be said for intentionality, resistance, standing our ground, and moving in a certain direction with empowerment and strength. 

Last week, though, I was invited to simply ride the waves. 

I’ve been doing that every day, literally and metaphorically. Meeting my swim buddies after the morning school drop-off to frolic in the frothy, white, cresting waves, and then returning home to ride the waves of whatever is happening or not happening in my life right now. 

There are directions I wish I could go. There are steps I wish I could take. There are dreams I would love to bring into reality. 

But now is not the time to do those things. Now is the time to simply be, in the moment, and ride the waves as they come. 

What are the waves you are being inviting to ride this month, and can you find ways to frolic and delight in them?

Kiran

Blessing for Our Journey

May the God of the cresting waves

lift us heavenwards 

as we swoop upward 

lift our spirits

as we whoop downward

lift our fears

as we release resistance

lift our worries

as we ride the waves

lift our hearts

as we wait

as we hope

and as we dream.

Amen

Light Will Come

Now that we’ve passed through the longest night of the year, the Winter Solstice (in this hemisphere anyway), we find ourselves moving towards the lighter seasons of the year, and in just a few days we will be celebrate the story that is at the heart of Christian faith – God coming into the world to be in solidarity with us in our broken, vulnerable and beautiful humanity, and of light shining in the darkness.

Five years ago I wrote a reflection that I’d like to share today. The issues of that day were far different than the ones we face now, yet somehow the message still applies to where we find ourselves at the end of 2021. My children are older, my living circumstances have changed, and back in 2016 I didn’t have an inkling about pandemics. Yet, I still cling to the same hope that light will come. 

But before I share that, I wanted to let you know about a few things coming up in the New Year. We are looking for a few more participants for our online retreat on 2nd January to welcome the New Year with a New Song. If the timing works for you, please join us! 

Onwards into 2022 and Beyond

  • Sing a New Song Online Mini-Retreat 2 January – There are a few places available! We’ve been asked to offer another “Sing a New Song” Retreat, this timing favoring Pacific Rim timing – specifically Eastern Australia, where a friend of mine is based. We will be listening for the new song in our lives just after the turn of the New Year, on Sunday the 2nd of January 2022. This time, Paul and I will be the ones yawning and sipping our morning coffee at 7am in Ireland, in the cold of winter, while our friends on the Pacific Rim will be bright eyed and bushy-tailed at 6pm Australia in the heat of summer. It will also be daytime for East Asia, the Indian subcontinent, the Middle East, and Europe. Perhaps this is a chance to look ahead and consider what the new year could be about for you or someone you know? Book your place here
  • Silent Retreat 25-27 February – I’ll be leading a Silent Retreat at the beautiful Corrymeela Centre here on the north coast. It will be a chance to still the swirl of everyday life and listen, deeply, to yourself and to God, while in the midst of a gathered community. We listen to ourselves – to our own voices, needs, pains, griefs, longings and hopes for the future. And we listen to what God might saying to us and leading us into. Silence crosses many barriers. This retreat is open to people from a variety of religious and spiritual backgrounds, and it would be lovely to have you with us. Book your place here
  • New Psalms for the Spirit Podcast Episodes It’s by chance that these new episodes are coming out during the season of Advent, but I think it’s fitting. At this time of the liturgical year we recognize our longing for a better world, and we name our hopes for justice and peace to become more fully present here on earth. Those themes are most definitely present in the Psalms, which constantly remind us that God is with us in our broken, vulnerable, beautiful humanity. 
  • Bless My Feet Community – I plan to start a new series in the new year… more on that in a few weeks. 
  • Spiritual Direction – I’d love to walk alongside you on your journey. Find out more about what that might mean for you here
  • Turas Pilgrimage in Ireland October 2023 – find out more here

Reflection, 22 December 2016

The longest night is over. The light is already beginning to shine on this earth for a few more moments each day.

But the last few months have seemed dark indeed. Bad news upon bad news. Even good news has been dimmed by the worry that a shadow might be cast over it at any moment.

Each time I open up the paper, or look at the TV, or scroll through my social media newsfeed and see haggard bodies walking through torn-apart streets, and weary faces seeking a place to rest, and desperate people pleading for rescue, there’s no ignoring it: there is darkness in this world. When I hear story after story of individuals or communities being targeted and harassed because of race, or religion, or the way they choose to express themselves, there’s no denying it: there is darkness in this world. When I read about land being willfully polluted by greedy profiteers, or natural disasters sweeping away entire landscapes, or rising temperatures destroying ecosystems, there’s no avoiding it: there is darkness in this world.

When I look ahead at the future, it doesn’t look as bright, crisp or clear as it once did when I was younger. It looks rather shadowy. As a mother of three young children who are rapidly becoming more independent, my maternal mind is primitively wired to sound warning bells whenever I sense danger, to ensure the safety of my offspring. I’m no longer that naïve child, that foolhardy teenager, that idealistic college student, that hormone-empowered pregnant woman, that blissed out baby mama. No, I’m the mother of three children who have their own legs, with which they can (and should) walk out into this big, bad, dark, dangerous world. I’m the mother of three individuals who have their own personalities, their own strengths and weaknesses, their own hopes and insecurities, and it is heart-wrenching to think of the pain or suffering they have, are, and will inevitably go through. I’ve witnessed too much sadness in the lives of loved ones for whom things have not always turned out rosy, and I know that things sometimes go very, very wrong in this dark world of ours.

There is darkness. Many have been sitting in darkness for the past few months. Many have spent their lives sitting in darkness. Many will sit through darkness in the years ahead. There’s no use pretending that this isn’t so.

In the beginning of Genesis’s account of creation, “darkness covered the face of the deep.” God creates light, but God doesn’t destroy darkness.

“Then God said, ‘Let there be light’; and there was light. And God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness God called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.” (Genesis 1:1-5)

God does not banish the darkness. It remains.

Darkness remains. Darkness covers us with its shadowy blanket, casting mystery and unknowableness around us. Ancient peoples’ great fear was that darkness would not end, and that the light of the sun would never again return. Perhaps we are not so different, anxious as we are that the darkness might overpower the light; worrying as we do, that it might swallow us up forever.

In our darkness, we utter the same words prayed by others in countless times, places, and life circumstances, wondering whether God has left us.

“My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” (Psalm 22)

“How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me?” (Psalm 13)

“O Lord, God of my salvation, when, at night, I cry out in your presence, let my prayer come before you; incline your ear to my cry.” (Psalm 88)

The people who have prayed these psalms in their own times of trouble are our companions in our darkness.

But with voices echoing through thousands of years, these companions also testify to their own experiences of God’s faithfulness, assuring us that even though we cannot always see God’s face, our God has not left us alone.

“Even though I walk in the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me.” (Psalm 23)

“In the watches of the night… my soul clings to you.” (Psalm 63)

“At night, God’s song is with me, a prayer to the God of life.” (Psalm 42)

One thing we know: there is darkness. But there’s another thing we know, and that’s that darkness does not last forever. The psalms also remind us of this.

“Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and God saved them from their distress; God brought them out of darkness…” (Psalm 107)

“The Lord is my light and my salvation: whom shall I fear?” (Psalm 27)

“Weeping may linger through the night, but joy comes in the morning.” (Psalm 30)

Morning by morning, we know that light will come. Morning by morning, the dark shadows scatter as the sun’s rays break over the surface of the horizon. At this particular time of the year – especially following the longest night, especially in the days leading up to the birth of our Emmanuel, God with us – we celebrate this profound truth.

“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it,”declares John 1:5.

Right now, I hold tight to this core belief. It is precious to me. It is a message that I want to live into as a parent, as a minister, and as a human being. It is a message that I want to pass on to my children, and my children’s children, and my children’s children’s children. It is the greatest truth there is, because it counters our deepest, most primitive, most reactionary fears. It is a belief both profound and simple, expressing the everlasting, undying hope to which we cling: that even though darkness remains, it will not prevail. Light will always pierce through even the darkest night, and a new day will dawn.

Until then, we wait. “I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in God’s word I hope; my soul waits for the Lord more than those who watch for the morning, more than those who watch for the morning.” (Psalm 130)

And when we do sit in times of darkness – which we inevitably have, are, and will, even during this Christmas season – may we find some small part in ourselves that can trust that one day, our Light will come, and all things will be brought into the full brightness and warmth of God’s hope, and peace, and joy, and love.

The image above is called “Woman before the Rising Sun” by Caspar David Friedrich (1774-1840).

Psalms for the Spirit Ep. 18: Awakening to our Belovedness, with Ruth Patterson

TODAY’S GUEST

Today’s guest is Ruth Patterson – Presbyterian minister, writer, retreat leader – recognized internationally for her deep spiritual insight and her gently powerful work in peace and reconciliation in Northern Ireland.

When I first heard about Ruth Patterson, it was with a certain sense of awe, as she was the very first woman – in any denomination – to be ordained in Ireland (well, perhaps since St. Brigit in the 5th century). Not only that, but she speaks with clarity and eloquence, and shows a steady kindness towards everyone she encounters. Ruth is one of those people for whom poetry and meaningful quotations roll off the tongue effortlessly, and whose reflections are profound while also being accessible and applicable to daily life.

The organisation she founded and led for 30 years, “Restoration Ministries,” brings people together across community divides in Ireland around their shared spirituality, and draws on the image of restoration depicted in the Psalms. In this conversation, which we had in the heart of Advent,  we talk about the link between the Psalms and the history of Ireland, about the importance of hospitality – towards ourselves, God, others – in moving into a future of restoration, about the journey towards becoming our full selves, and about how awakening to our belovedness is the starting point for healing and wholeness in this world. 

So whatever it is that brought you here, I’m glad you’re with us. 

Find the podcast on the Psalms for the Spirit website or subscribe on Apple, Google or wherever you listen to your podcasts.

More about Ruth:

Ruth Patterson is a Presbyterian minister, and for the last 33 years has been Director of Restoration Ministries (https://restorationministries.co.uk), a non- denominational, Christian organisation committed to peace and reconciliation.  In 1976 she was the first woman to be ordained in Ireland.  She was the recipient of the Alumna of the Year 2000 award (Edinburgh University / Royal Bank of Scotland), in 2001 an honorary doctorate from the Presbyterian Theology Faculty of Ireland, and in 2003 was awarded an OBE for her efforts in reconciliation.  She has authored five books and numerous articles stemming from her commitment to unity and peace.  She produces annual scripture guidelines for Faith and Friendship.  She is one of four church representatives to L’Arche International and holds the post of Ecumenical Canon in St Anne’s Cathedral, Belfast.  She is on the Board of Oneings, a bi-annual publication of the Centre for Action and Contemplation in Albuquerque, New Mexico. 

FEATURED MUSIC

The music in this episode is by John L. Bell (aside from intro/outro). With thanks to John, Wild Good Resources, and GIA for allowing use of these songs on this podcast. If you would like to purchase these songs, follow the links below. Songs are listed in order of appearance.

Come, Spirit, Come (Psalm 144) – intro/outro by Celtic Psalms

You Have Searched Me (Psalm 139)

Love and Mercy (Psalm 85 – Forthcoming Album)

From the Depths (Psalm 130)

You can find our published scores, CDs and mp3s through GIA Music

We’re also on YouTube, Spotify, and Amazon

UPCOMING RETREATS

2nd January 2022 “Sing a New Song” Online Retreat Day with Paul Hutchinson (Therapist, Mediator, Storyteller and Podcast Guest from Episode 11)

Silent Retreat 25-27 February 2022 at Corrymeela

This retreat offers a space to be in silence alongside a gathered community. In silence we take the time to still the swirl of daily life and really listen, deeply, to what is going on below the surface. We listen to ourselves – to our own voices, needs, pains, griefs, longings and hopes for the future. And we listen to what God might saying to us and leading us into.

Silence crosses many barriers. This retreat is open to people from a variety of religious and spiritual backgrounds. It is led by Kiran Young Wimberly, Presbyterian minister and spiritual director.

Contact bookings@corrymeela.org to book your place. 

GET IN TOUCH!

I’d love to hear from you. Email psalmsforthespirit@gmail.com or send a message via our Facebook page to share with me how the Psalms have lifted your spirits.

Whatever it is that brought you here, I’m so glad you’re with us. – Kiran

Psalms for the Spirit Ep. 17: Delivering us through the Pains of Life and Death, with John Bell

TODAY’S GUEST

For some, Advent is a time of grief and loss. Today’s guest is John Bell – hymnwriter, author, and broadcaster and a guiding light from the Iona Community as he has for decades created resources for the global church in music, worship and spirituality.

I first became aware of John Bell as I was growing up, when I started to notice his name in the credits for so many of the sacred songs that I loved, and then our paths crossed in Northern Ireland some years ago when I was tasked with picking him up for a conference we were involved in. I have a striking memory of him striding out of the ferry in his bright red Doc Martin shoes, and I was delighted to discover that John Bell is warm and personable, has an easy laugh and a wry sense of humour, and speaks with a refreshing frankness while also displaying a clear empathy and compassion for others.

I recently discovered that he had written a book entitled “Living with the Psalms” – so I got in touch to see if he would be willing to have a chat about his insights, and we were able to do so right when the world had its eye on his city of Glasgow during COP26.

In this conversation we talk about how the Psalms – much like the incarnation we celebrate in this season – speak of God’s solidarity with us in our vulnerability, how the Psalms give us permission to express doubt and anger when we come face to face with suffering and injustice, how sacred songs have the power to heal and tend to the brokenhearted, and how the Psalms offer us the precious image of God as midwife – delivering us through the pains of life and death. 

There is some sensitive content in this episode, particularly about tragic loss of infants or children, so please be aware of that as you listen, and make sure you have the support you need in case any of the subjects are difficult to hear about.  

Most episodes of Psalms for the Spirit feature the music of Celtic Psalms, but it seemed only appropriate today to feature the renowned hymnwriting of John Bell – please see below for information on the songs, and thanks to John, the Iona Community, and GIA for allowing the use of these songs on this podcast. 

So whatever it is that brought you here, I’m glad you’re with us. 

Find the podcast on the Psalms for the Spirit website or subscribe on Apple, Google or wherever you listen to your podcasts.

More about John:

John L. Bell is a Resource Worker with The Iona Community, who lectures, preaches and conducts seminars across the denominations.  He is a hymn writer, author and occasional broadcaster, but retains a primary passion for congregational song.  John is based in Glasgow and works with his colleagues in the areas of music, worship and spirituality. 

Purchase John Bell’s book “Living with the Psalms”

FEATURED MUSIC

The music in this episode is by John L. Bell (aside from intro/outro). With thanks to John, Wild Good Resources, and GIA for allowing use of these songs on this podcast. If you would like to purchase these songs, follow the links below. Songs are listed in order of appearance.

Come, Spirit, Come (Psalm 144) – intro/outro by Celtic Psalms

Be Still and Know (purchase from GIA)

“Be Still and Know” by John L. Bell, Performed by The Cathedral Singers Copyright © 1989, Arr. © 1995 WGRG c/o Iona Community, GIA Publications, Inc., exclusive North American agent. Recording courtesy of GIA Publications, Inc., from God Never Sleeps, CD-348. It can also be found on the collection Of Womb and Tomb. www.giamusic.com

The Lord of the Earth (purchase from Wildgoose Resources)

“The Lord of the Earth” from the collection This is God’s World 
Words & Music John L. Bell, copyright © 2011, 2020 ℗ 2020 WGRG, Iona Community, Glasgow, Scotland. www.wildgoose.scot

I Love the Lord (purchase from Wildgoose Resources)

“I Love The Lord” from the collection The Truth That Sets Us Free 
Words & Music John L. Bell, copyright © & ℗ 2012 WGRG, Iona Community, Glasgow, Scotland. www.wildgoose.scot

We Cannot Measure How You Heal (purchase from GIA)

“We Cannot Measure How You Heal” Words by John L. Bell and Graham Maule, arr. by John L. Bell. Performed by The Cathedral Singers Words © 1989, Arr. © 2011 WGRG c/o Iona Community, GIA Publications, Inc., exclusive North American agent. Recording courtesy of GIA Publications, Inc., from The Splendor of the House of God, CD-874. www.giamusic.com

I Will Sing a Song of Love (Purchase from Wildgoose Resources)

“I Will Sing a Song of Love” from the collection I Will Not Sing Alone Words & Music John L. Bell, copyright © & ℗ 2004 WGRG, Iona Community, Glasgow, Scotland. www.wildgoose.scot 

UPCOMING RETREATS

2nd January 2022 “Sing a New Song” Online Retreat Day with Paul Hutchinson (Therapist, Mediator, Storyteller and Podcast Guest from Episode 11)

Silent Retreat 25-27 February 2022 at Corrymeela

This retreat offers a space to be in silence alongside a gathered community. In silence we take the time to still the swirl of daily life and really listen, deeply, to what is going on below the surface. We listen to ourselves – to our own voices, needs, pains, griefs, longings and hopes for the future. And we listen to what God might saying to us and leading us into.

Silence crosses many barriers. This retreat is open to people from a variety of religious and spiritual backgrounds. It is led by Kiran Young Wimberly, Presbyterian minister and spiritual director.

Contact bookings@corrymeela.org to book your place. 

GET IN TOUCH!

I’d love to hear from you. Email psalmsforthespirit@gmail.com or send a message via our Facebook page to share with me how the Psalms have lifted your spirits.

Whatever it is that brought you here, I’m so glad you’re with us. – Kiran

Psalms for the Spirit Ep. 16: Lament as a Sacred Act, with Peace Lee

Psalms for the Spirit is back with some new episodes!

It’s by chance that these new episodes are coming out during the season of Advent, but I think it’s fitting. At this time of the liturgical year we recognize our longing for a better world, and we name our hopes for justice and peace to become more fully present here on earth. Those themes are most definitely present in the Psalms, which constantly remind us that God is with us in our broken, vulnerable, beautiful humanity.  

TODAY’S GUEST

Today’s guest is Peace Lee – spiritual director, preacher, and educator on decolonial and feminist perspectives. I had the privilege of journeying with Peace in our spirituality studies at seminary, and through that shared experience got to see not only her sharp and probing intellect but her tender, loving heart. As a member of the Korean diaspora, Peace describes herself as someone whose personal history has been marked by the larger history of imperial colonialism in her ancestral home of Korea, and also having grown up as a racial and gendered “other” in white supremacist American culture. In this conversation, we reconnect over our mutual love for the Psalms: how they can be imprinted on our hearts and come to us when we need them most, how we can read them afresh as we consider new language for them, the importance of lament in finding healing and wholeness, and how the Psalms can nourish us in building a more just and equitable world.

Find the podcast on the Psalms for the Spirit website or subscribe on Apple, Google or wherever you listen to your podcasts.

More about Peace:

Peace Pyunghwa Lee (she/her) is a spiritual director, preacher, and an educator committed to decolonial and feminist praxis. Formative experiences of growing up in Korea and the Philippines and later immigrating to the United States as a preteen has imbued Peace with a humanizing and inclusive perspective. At the core of her faith is the affirmation of the sacred worth of all persons, as imago dei. 

Link to Peace’s sermon on Psalm 119

FEATURED MUSIC

The music in this episode is by Celtic Psalms (Kiran Young Wimberly & The McGraths).

Come, Spirit, Come (Psalm 144)

How Long (Psalm 13)

The Lord is My Light (Psalm 27)

You Have Turned My Sorrow (Psalm 30)

God of My Salvation (Psalm 88 – forthcoming album)

You can find our published scores, CDs and mp3s through GIA Music

We’re also on YouTube, Spotify, and Amazon

UPCOMING RETREATS

2nd January 2022 “Sing a New Song” Online Retreat Day with Paul Hutchinson (Therapist, Mediator, Storyteller and Podcast Guest from Episode 11)

Silent Retreat 25-27 February 2022 at Corrymeela

This retreat offers a space to be in silence alongside a gathered community. In silence we take the time to still the swirl of daily life and really listen, deeply, to what is going on below the surface. We listen to ourselves – to our own voices, needs, pains, griefs, longings and hopes for the future. And we listen to what God might saying to us and leading us into.

Silence crosses many barriers. This retreat is open to people from a variety of religious and spiritual backgrounds. It is led by Kiran Young Wimberly, Presbyterian minister and spiritual director.

Contact bookings@corrymeela.org to book your place. 

GET IN TOUCH!

I’d love to hear from you. Email psalmsforthespirit@gmail.com or send a message via our Facebook page to share with me how the Psalms have lifted your spirits.

Whatever it is that brought you here, I’m so glad you’re with us. – Kiran

November Newsletter: Mothering Arms

[This post first appeared on my blog about a year ago. It’s been on my mind so I decided to share it for this month’s reflection.]

Thirteen years ago I was handed a tiny human to hold for the very first time. I still remember the delightful shock of seeing the curves and crevices of this new person, whom no one had ever seen before, in all her particularity. “So you’re the one who’s been living inside me!” I thought. She had a character, a personality, a uniqueness, an “I am who I am” quality about her. And she was wholly mine (ours!) to embrace, to welcome, to love, to embrace. To hold.

Holding our daughter became life’s new activity. Holding her for feeding, holding her to walk from room to room, holding her with extended family, church members, friends – and handing her to them to hold.

What a precious experience it is to hold a newborn baby! There is nothing like their newborn smell, their fragile lightness, their precious vulnerability. And the holy task – the only task we have at those moments – is to show utter gentleness toward the human being in our arms.

Holding her that first moment filled me with such a sense of awe, instantly. Over the following hours, days, weeks the initial surprise transformed into familiarity, as I came to know her every movement and expression, as I developed an intuition for what she might be trying to communicate.

In the beginning there were also hours, days, nights when I felt baffled, holding her in confusion and frustration as I attempted to understand how to meet her needs.

But eventually, sometimes after a bit of a struggle, we would melt into the restful embrace of contentedness. My arms became that place of stillness for her, that place of comfort.

Like a child with mother quieted, reads Psalm 131.

Last week as I reflected on this passage, I recalled the way I had rested in my mother’s arms as a child. Though it’s been a while, the memory was fresh and visceral. I could feel the stroke of her hand through my hair. A sense of wellbeing washed over me – a contended relaxation. I had nowhere I needed to go, nothing I needed to do. Only to allow myself to be held in my mother’s arms.

Though I’m a grown woman, this memory of being held felt so deeply comforting to me. I continued to remember it throughout that day and the days after. I hope I continue to return to it, over and over again.

For the arms holding me in this image were not only my mother’s – they were God’s.

I was resting in the love, acceptance, and tenderness of the Mothering God.

It made me realize how important those moments of tenderness with my own daughter are, even now. She is growing up, she is developing her independence, and rightly so. I want that freedom for her, and I want her to develop that confidence to strike out on her own, as I did.

But when those moments of tenderness come, I will treat them as sacred. In those times when she rests on me, she is also experiencing rest in the arms of the Mothering God. The God who will hold her and love her much longer, and better, and more fully than I ever could as her earthly mother. I have my limitations, my faults; I make my mistakes. But God is the one who will embrace her forever.

So for now, while I can, I will hold my little girl, who is not so little anymore, and I will give thanks that the Mothering God will continue to hold her all her life long.

Ponderings for Your Path

  • There are references to God’s motherly nature in scripture, but we tend to spend little time focusing on those images. Sometimes we need to be given permission to imagine God in this way. Have you ever experienced God as mother – perhaps through the gentle and loving presence of an earthly mother, or through imagining God showing you motherly love and tenderness that you didn’t receive in your life? 
  • Take a moment to still your heart, your mind, your spirit… and rest. Rest in God’s gentle, loving, tender arms, and know that you are a beloved and precious child of God. 

Onwards into November and Beyond

  • Silent Retreat 25-27 February – in person at Corrymeela Ballycastle. This weekend will be the first (hopefully of many!) in person retreats at Corrymeela here in Ballycastle, Northern Ireland. It’s oversubscribed and bursting at the seams, but anyone who missed the chance to attend this retreat should mark their calendar for the Silent Retreat I will be leading in February. Book your place here
  • Sing a New Song Online Mini-Retreat 2 January – PACIFIC RIM TIMING! We’ve been asked to offer another “Sing a New Song” Retreat, this timing favoring Pacific Rim timing – specifically Eastern Australia, where a friend of mine is based. We will be listening for the new song in our lives just after the turn of the New Year, on Sunday the 2nd of January 2022. This time, Paul and I will be the ones yawning and sipping our morning coffee at 7am in Ireland, in the cold of winter, while our friends on the Pacific Rim will be bright eyed and bushy-tailed at 6pm Australia in the heat of summer. It will also be daytime for East Asia, the Indian subcontinent, the Middle East, and Europe. Perhaps this is a chance to look ahead and consider what the new year could be about for you or someone you know? Book your place here
  • Celtic Psalms in Live Concert, 8pm on 12 December! For the first time in two years, Celtic Psalms will be singing some songs live at a concert in Dungannon, Northern Ireland. We have been asked to open for a band that is releasing an album and raising funds to support the homeless. Buy your ticket here
  • New Psalms for the Spirit Podcast Episodes, coming up! I’m really enjoying have some conversations for the podcast again, after a long break. New episodes will be coming out in the next few weeks. Without having planned this, the first two conversations happen to explore feminine and motherly images of God. Stay tuned, and check out previous episodes in the meantime! 
  • Spiritual Direction – I’d love to walk alongside you on your journey. Find out more about what that might mean for you here
  • Turas Pilgrimage in Ireland October 2023 – find out more here

Blessing for Our Journey

May the God who gave us life 

hold us until our anxieties have subsided

until our fears have calmed

until our hearts have cried their fill 

even as we squirm and wrestle

even as we weep in distress

even as we ourselves don’t know what we need 

until that moment when we melt

into deep rest

and deep quiet

and deep peace

in the Mothering Arms of love. 

Amen

October Monthly Newsletter: Walk in the Weather

It’s the time of year when I don my wind and rain gear for my walk. Every. Single. Day. Rain slacks and windbreaker are my non-negotiable attire. The wind is picking up, the rain coming down in gentle drizzle or heavy showers, the temperature dropping to a chill. Even if the sun shines at the beginning of my walk, I can’t guarantee that I won’t be soaked by the time I get home.

At this time of year I’m tempted to stay in the cozy confines of my home rather than brave the blustery weather. The temptation grows stronger as the weather becomes more intense. Soon, it won’t just be the wind and rain and cold – it will be the darkness, too. 

And yet, I find the best practice for me, for my resilience at this time of year, is to walk in the weather.

There is Goodness Still

Twenty years ago, I was on a plane headed from one intense situation to another, from volunteering in India after a devastating earthquake to starting a new chapter as a seminary student. When my friend and I boarded that plane, we were exhausted, we were disillusioned from a difficult journey, we had Bollywood songs floating through our heads, and we didn’t know that our lives would be altered while on that flight.

Mid-Atlantic, an announcement came over the loudspeaker that due to a “political situation” our plane was being re-rerouted from New York City to Montreal, Canada. People began standing up from their seats and demanding more information, and when none was given, they took the initiative of calling from their mobile phones (which at the time was nearly unheard of) to find out more.

Planes had been hijacked? Crashed into the World Trade Center? Thousands had died?

These words spilled out into the plane from the man on the phone, and we looked at each other – friends, families, strangers – with astonishment and growing fear.

Decades, later, I remember those minutes on the plane with the veneer of time. The exact emotions I felt then, and in the following days, are distant from me now. But I know that as a young adult in my early twenties, this was a pivotal moment.

I went straight into seminary after this – traumatized by my proximity to these terrorist attacks, disturbed by a difficult summer before I’d even boarded that plane, perplexed by the complexity of humanity, devastated by the depth of sorrow and loss in the world, horrified by the unfathomable evils that people can perpetrate against each other.

There was much for me to process as a young adult, and I remember the heaviness I carried for years afterwards.

Yet, the overriding memory of that time, when I look back all these years later, is this:

There is goodness still.

I began my theological studies and immediately found a best friend with whom I could sing. I wrote a song about my experience, and together my friend and I sang this refrain to other seminary students who were also traumatized by this event.

Together, we reminded each other of this truth:

There is goodness still.

Nearly a decade later, the refrain continued when my son was born on that day. And now, it’s that event that fills my thoughts on September 11th. My day centers around celebrating the life, the joy, the rowdiness, the mischievousness, the sweetness, the tenderness that came into our family on that day.

There is goodness still.

I woke up this morning to messages from my seminary friends reminding me of that refrain that we sang so many years ago.

And 20 years later, I believe it to be true.

On September 11th, 2001, I could see it in the kind gestures of strangers on that flight as we faced this catastrophe together. The woman who saw me crying in the bathroom and asked if I was ok. The fellow travelers who shared stories over a meal at the Montreal ski resort where we were put up. The dear friend with whom I shared that terrifying flight. The Bollywood songs that comforted us in our sleeplessness. The darling woman named Lily, our roommate for the night.

I saw goodness in the new friends I met so quickly when classes began. In the songs that filled nearly every day of my life for the next few years. In the laughter that felt like such a gift after witnessing such heartbreak.

There is goodness still.

And here we are, in 2021, needing that refrain once again.

We lean into the future with a pandemic in our midst, uncertain how to move forward. Climate change brings us frightening new realities. Refugees seek places of safety.

Yet, at my core I believe those words, and I offer them up again:

There is goodness still.

I am thankful to my friends for reminding me this morning of that truth, and for bringing me such joy in the face of tragedy all those years ago.

Together, let’s sing these words, remember them, and never forget them:

There is goodness still.

Monthly Newsletter: The Sheen of September, and a Welcome Video

[This newsletter appears on my Substack community called “Bless My Feet.” Click here to view the entire newsletter, including welcome video!]

Things are really starting to ramp up around here now that it’s the beginning of September. I don’t know about you, but I love it when the routine of a new school year begins to unfold. I love when I can pack my three vibrant children up in a car, wave them away to their day, and then (finally!) return to a quiet house to get on with my own pursuits. 

September always had a sheen of possibility on it for me. Growing up, I wondered what my teachers would be like, whether my classmates had changed since I’d last seen them, whether there would be a new student who might become a best friend. Sometimes I was that new student, walking into those hallways that smelled like fresh paint, stomach fluttering with butterflies, a timid but hopeful smile on my face. No matter what the circumstances, September always filled me with a yearning to learn and grow, to be challenged and stretched. I was so done with the lazy days of summer and felt ready to apply myself.

Of course, this feeling never lasted forever. By November I would have something different to say about my oppressive school routine. But September… September brimmed with possibility. 

Last September I was a bit more wary than usual because of the looming uncertainties of COVID. The vaccine hadn’t been developed yet and I had an ominous sense about the future. 

I know, I know. Things aren’t much different now. We do have the vaccine, but variants are still spreading, climate change is doing scary things, and there is a looming refugee crisis. There will always be ominous threats in this world. Every single September, we will have cause to worry, fear, or even despair. 

But the sheen of September shines through all that, for me, this year. The possibility of what’s ahead glows brighter than the heavy news we receive every day. The future stretches before me – before us – and I’m excited to learn and grow, to be challenged and stretched. 

I hope there’s a sheen of possibility this September for you, too. 

Kiran 

p.s. Click this link to see my welcome video!

There’s a lot coming up that I’m excited about. I hope I’ll be able to connect with you in one or many of these ways.

  • 18th September Online mini retreat with Paul Hutchinson – book here
  • Bless My Feet series on Spiritual Practices for Resilience – become a member here
  • 19-21 November in person retreat at Corrymeela – find out more here or email me at revkiran@gmail.com. Deposits of £50 due on Friday 24th September, £130 due Friday 22nd October
  • New Celtic Psalms album in the works – preorder here. If you’d like to be among the churches hosting a virtual concert, contact me at revkiran@gmail.com
  • Spiritual Direction – find out more about what this means here. I’d love to walk alongside you on your journey
  • Turas Pilgrimage in Ireland October 2023 – find out more here

Psalms for the Spirit Ep. 15: Hope is Stronger than Fear, with Denise Bradley

TODAY’S GUEST

Today’s guest is Denise Bradley, an expert in trauma theory, particularly as it applies to people on the margins of society. Denise has extensive training the field of trauma and has spent decades helping victims of violence find healing, accompanying them as they process their experiences and eventually begin to find a way forward. I know Denise from her current work with Corrymeela in which she works with marginalized groups, particularly refugee and asylum seekers in Northern Ireland. I had the privilege of seeing Denise in her element as she created a safe, warm, welcoming space for people who had gone through recent traumas, and the joy that emerged during her time with them was palpable. I wanted to learn more from Denise about how the theory of trauma relates to the Psalms, and in this conversation we talk about using the Psalms for grounding and comfort in times of fear or traumatic stress, finding inner safety that helps us move forward even when under threat, how the Psalms express all three stages of trauma healing, and about how hope is stronger than fear. 

Find the podcast on the Psalms for the Spirit website or subscribe on Apple, Google or wherever you listen to your podcasts.

More about Denise:

Denise Bradley is currently Programme Manager for Marginalisation at Corrymeela, Ireland’s oldest peace and reconciliation organisation.

Since joining the staff team, she has been leading and pioneering the development of trauma informed practice as a key peacebuilding mechanism both regionally and internationally, whilst promoting sustainability for peacebuilders. She has over 25 years practitioner experience in voluntary and statutory sectors graduating with Early Years and Childhood Studies BA hons degree, Psychological Trauma Studies 1st class honours from QUB and currently a part time law student finishing MSc law, specialising in conflict, trauma and displacement . Denise is an accredited domestic and sexual and trauma practitioner, accumulating over 15 years extensive experience in leading, managing and developing specialist support services and programmes for female survivors of sexual and domestic violence in a post conflict society.

Denise is married to Paul and has 3 amazing adult sons and a gorgeous grandson who keep her grounded, alongside metal smithing and sea swimming.

FEATURED MUSIC

The music in this episode is by Celtic Psalms (Kiran Young Wimberly & The McGraths). You can purchase mp3s directly through www.celticpsalms.com

Come, Spirit, Come (Psalm 144)

All Who Dwell (Psalm 91)

Wings of a Dove (Psalm 55)

You can find our published scores, CDs and mp3s through GIA Music

We’re also on YouTube, Spotify, and Amazon

Album draft cover by Eva Wimberly

NEW ALBUM, COMING UP!

Celtic Psalms has a new (fourth) album coming out in the next few months! We were so excited to be able to do music together again. Your pre-order will help us push the album through to the finish line. Pre-order here

SUPPORT THE PODCAST

If you would like to support the production of this podcast, you can do so by contributing here. Thank you so much! Your support will means there will facilitate more meaningful conversations about spirituality and resilience into the future.

UPCOMING EVENTS

“Sing a New Song” Online Retreat Day with Paul Hutchinson (Therapist, Mediator, Storyteller and Podcast Guest from Episode 11)

18th September 2021

“Refresh Your Spirit” In-Person Weekend Retreat at Corrymeela

19th-21st Nov 2021

GET IN TOUCH!

I’d love to hear from you. Email psalmsforthespirit@gmail.com or send a message via our Facebook page to share with me how the Psalms have lifted your spirits. If you send an audio file, I may just include it in an upcoming episode!

Whatever it is that brought you here, I’m so glad you’re with us. – Kiran