316 Days

Rainbow-10-April

Sometimes, when Paul looks at me,
his eyes are full of love.
Sometimes, Paul’s eyes
are full of mischief.
Today Paul’s eyes
are full of pain.

316 days ago
Paul was admitted to hospital
with severe chest pains
and since then
Paul has been in pain
every
single
day.

Paul is really suffering.

On my way into work
I cycle past the Balls on the Falls,
which always remind me
that nothing is impossible to God.
Today, as I cycle past,
I shoot a prayer up to heaven,
“Lord,
please heal Paul;
he’s really struggling!”

Waiting to cross the rush-hour traffic,
I glance over my shoulder
and there, stretching across Black Mountain,
is a pale rainbow
in the early morning sky.
I sense a smiling “thumbs-up!”
from My God,
a silent, “Claire, don’t worry –
I’ve got this!”

I continue my journey into work,
reassured.
Paul is in good hands
and all will be well.

©  Claire Murray, 10th April 2017

The Circus Bear

The circus bear patrols
the front of his cave.
All day long,
day after day at the zoo
the circus bear paces
five paces across,
five paces back.

The physical imprisonment
of a tiny, cruel cage in a circus
has been replaced
by the prison of his tortured mind.
Five paces across,
five paces back.

Lord,
there are times in my life
when I resist change
and insist instead
on following the safe habits of a lifetime.
I persist in using coping strategies,
once necessary,
that used to protect me
but which are now simply
deeply ingrained
and today imprison me.
Five paces across,
five paces back.

Give me the courage, Lord,
to stop doing things
because that’s the way
that they’ve always been done.
Give me the courage
to step out in faith
so that I may live my life
in freedom
instead of living it
locked in the past.

I don’t want to be like
the circus bear
living my life
taking five paces across,
five paces back.

©  Claire Murray, 25th March 2017

A Happy Ending

The story of the prodigal son
is truly heart-warming.
The arrogant, rebellious younger son
squanders the family fortune
and finds himself deserted by friends
in a foreign land.
Alone and penniless,
he realises the error of his ways
and returns home,
a much humbler man.
There, he is welcomed with open arms
by his Daddy.

This is comforting, reassuring.
It reminds us of our Daddy in heaven,
ever-ready to welcome each one of us
with open arms.
Our God is a God
of love and compassion.

I love that part of the story.

But I wonder
why did Jesus not stop the story
at this point?
Why did Jesus choose to tell us
about the older brother,
eaten up by jealousy,
who feels unable to even look at
the foolish son?

Why did Jesus include
that part of the story?

I suspect that,
in this story,
Jesus is calling me
to love and forgive others
in the same way
that My God loves and forgives me.
Jesus doesn’t intend this story
to be simply heart-warming –
He intends to challenge me
to live a life of love.

I can see his point
(but I would still have preferred
a happy ending!)

©  Claire Murray, 19th March 2017

Dandelions

At Mass this morning
we sing these words in a psalm,
“To you, Yahwheh,
I lift up my soul.”

As I sing these words
a scene flashes into my mind
from thirty years ago.

I’m home in Derry
for the summer
and I’m walking beside a playground
in the Bogside.

A toddler is busily
clambering up a bank.
She is picking a bunch
of bright yellow, feathery flowers,
yanking them out of the ground
one by one
and squeezing each one of them
into her tiny fist.
She is a picture of concentration.
Finally, her little fist full,
she carefully climbs down the bank
and runs over to her Mammy
to happily present her precious gift –
a posy of dandelions!
A delighted Mammy rewards her daughter
with a hug and a smile.

This morning at Mass
I’m acutely aware
of my failings
but, as I offer my flawed self
to My God,
I sense that He is delighted
at my well-intentioned efforts.
I sense a welcome and a hug
from My God, My Daddy.
I sense that My God delights in me
just like that Mammy
who delighted in her daughter
when she presented
a hand-picked bunch of dandelions
that she had gathered, with love,
in the Bogside.

©  Claire Murray, 6th March 2017

Moydamlaght

It’s one of those rare Irish days
of sun and blue skies
in early spring.

We are surrounded by the gentle slopes
of the Sperrins.
High up, near Eagles’ Rock,
falcons soar silently,
crows swoosh past just overhead,
larks chorus
and bunnies hop away into burrows.

This place feels timeless.
It calls me to stop and be still.
My worries and cares
are a distant memory.

Moydamlaght on a sunny spring time –
peace for the mind
and rest for the soul.

©  Claire Murray, 4th March 2017

Trying to Make a Connection

Yesterday a boy and a girl
walked past me.
They looked like students
and they were chatting.
“I was just trying
to make a connection …”
said the girl
and then they were gone.

This evening, at vigil Mass,
I know how that girl feels.
Today is the first weekend of Lent
and I sense
that I have drifted somewhat
in my relationship
with My God.

I see Lent as an opportunity
to draw closer to My God,
to reconnect with Him.
During Mass
I hear a beautiful psalm sung.
It’s called “Turn to Me”
and contains the line,
“I call your name.”

Hearing these words
I feel reassured, encouraged
and welcome.
I have a sense that,
during this Lent,
while I am trying
to connect with My God,
My God is busily trying
to reconnect with me.

©  Claire Murray, 4th March 2017

Being Holy

I’m going to say something
that is incredibly un-cool,
so not-what-people-want-to-hear
that it borders on the controversial.
I want to be holy.

I can sense people’s reactions,
their reticence
as they take a step back,
looking confused and uncertain,
making a mental note
to give me a wide berth,
and writing me off
as a “Holy-Joe”,
a kill-joy,
someone to avoid.

But that’s not how I see it.
To me, being holy means
being whole,
being free to be
everything that God has always intended
that I can be.

Being holy means
learning to see myself
as someone who is lovable
despite my many flaws
and finding that,
freed from demanding perfection
from myself
I am free to love other imperfect people,
despite their flaws.

Being holy means
finding peace in God
and in myself.

The way that I see it
being holy
is not a burden;
being holy
sets me free.

©  Claire Murray, 26th February 2017

Celebrating Brigid

ChapelOfUnity-Small

Today is the feast day of St Brigid
and it’s bitterly cold in Belfast.
I slip into St Anne’s Church of Ireland Cathedral
and walk through the semi-darkness
to the Chapel of Unity.
Stepping into the tiny chapel
I feel bathed in light and warmth
and welcome.

John and Mark, two of the ministers,
greet me with a smile
and our morning service begins.
After reading the Gospel
Mark speaks to us
about St Brigid.
He tells us about Brigid’s dedication
to drawing together
different spiritual traditions
in ancient Ireland –
paganism and Christianity.

As our service continues
I’m struck by the prayers,
so similar to those that I hear at Mass.
I feel very much at home
and I have a strong sense of how much
we all have in common here,
a sense of all being part
of the family of God.

I have a sense that, this morning,
in the Chapel of Unity,
Catholic and Church of Ireland unite.

Isn’t that a wonderful way
to celebrate the feast of St Brigid?

© Claire Murray, 1st February 2017

Road to Damascus

I used to feel a little envious
of St Paul.
God spoke to him
on the road to Damascus
in a way that so direct,
so clear.
Why couldn’t God speak to each of us
in the same way?
Wouldn’t that make our spiritual lives
so much simpler,
so much more straight-forward?

Only recently did I realise
that I have already had
my “road to Damascus” experience.
It came at a time in my life
when I felt quite desolate.
One day, when I wasn’t even at prayer,
I heard a voice saying softly,
“You don’t have to be perfect.”
“Yes, I do!” I countered.
“No, you don’t”, the voice replied, gently.
Then, for the first time in my life,
I felt the love of God.
I felt absolutely immersed in that love,
a love that felt eternal.
And, for the first time in my life,
I felt that I loved God in return.
I was totally overwhelmed
and was reduced to tears.

Looking back,
I realise that this was my own, personal
“road to Damascus” moment.
I am convinced that,
like St Paul,
I have been called by God
to give witness to my faith,
but it’s on an infinitely tinier scale.
I feel called to bring
a little bit of God with me
into every situation
in which I find myself.

I have had my “road to Damascus” moment
and it has changed my life
forever.

© Claire Murray, 28th January 2017

Does God Hear When I Sing in My Head?

I’ve got the cold.
My throat is sore
and I can’t sing.
Luckily, I can still play the guitar
and so today
I stand with our folk group
as we provide the music
for Sunday morning Mass.

The time comes
for the Our Father,
a song that I particularly love.
Today I can’t sing aloud
but as the folk group and the congregation
all sing aloud
I find myself grinning in delight
and singing along in my head.

And I find myself wondering –
does God hear me
when I sing in my head?
And does my silent song, maybe,
make him smile?

© Claire Murray, 22nd January 2017