EYE TO EYE

TOWARDS THE END OF THE DAY I watched three or four squirrels at play. We live in their garden – the one they share with five or six wood pigeons who are so liberally supplied with scraps from the table that I sometimes wonder, as I watch them waddling around the lawn, whether they could take off in a hurry if need be. But I digress.

The squirrels spend much of the day chasing each other up and down the oak tree and round and round the perimeter fence that marks out their territory. Until early evening when, apparently certain of their safe space, they’re often to be found sitting up quietly, as though at prayer. Tonight one of them met my watching eyes – and it’s happened, by the grace of God, before – and we meditated, contemplated one another. And I had a gentle sense that the little fellow was probably rather better at it than I.

And then, at 8pm, our monthly Meditation gathering assembled over in the church. The gentle sound of others’ quiet breathing soothes my soul. Shared silence and stillness. Balm. And I realise that my encounter with God here, the One silently contemplating the other, happened only a little space before with a reflective grey squirrel as we, he and me, were able to encounter each other eye to eye.

the golden evening brightens in the west …

BLOSSOMING

BLESSED BE GOD for the gift of another blue-skied blossoming day – in flowers, in trees; in people young and beautiful and reaching; in wide-open-minded educators, giving, learning, receptive and teaching; in the mid-life laughter, and poetry, and wisdom, wonderment, weeping and working; in compassion, forgiveness, healing and recollecting; in pause and in poise; in pastors faithful and praying;  in people patiently waiting, sighing, dying. All these I have encountered in just one blossoming day. And there’ll be more on the way, until Eternal Day.

Blessed be God!

WORDS AND IMAGINATION’S ART

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CALLIGRAPHIC ARTIST Stephen Raw is undoubtedly one of my favourite people. Visitors to his Exhibition at Bramhall Parish Centre today spoke one after another of his smile and his warmth, and of Margaret’s welcoming and supportive hospitality. Stephen’s a man with poetry in his soul and a big, generous and inclusive imagination. And that’s probably what I love about him. Poetry, inclusivity and imagination.

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Poets gift humankind with precise, ordered expression, an offering that means something important to them – and that is gift indeed. But there’s also subtext in the gift, an invitation in the poet’s offering, a calling to the imaginations of each and every individual reader to do his or her own interpretation – like the biblical invitation; like the very parables of the Christ. Poetry. From the Greek Poetes – “to make, create, compose …”

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Heightened awareness of colours, blended, crafted, melded, become, by way of Stephen’s creative contemplation and patient turn of hand, the universe upon which the gifts of the poets are inscribed. And if poetry calls us etymologically to the root of her subjects, so Stephen’s care-full placing and calligraphy and colouring take us, by means of a grace beyond our telling, to the root of all things – to the depths of imagination. So some of the happy conversations I’ve delighted in today have been hugely energising! I’ve discovered once again that I’m not alone in my being fired and coloured with the passionate conviction that worthwhile THEOLOGY absolutely needs the art and grace of ETYMOLOGY. Our approach to God, to the universe, to our world, to our relationships, to our Scriptures, to the daily craft of our lives, requires IMAGINATION.

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one of the collaborations between Stephen Raw with Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy

Bishop John Taylor’s “Kingdom Come” echoed in my mind throughout the day. Though we may not understand what he meant by it, the bishop wrote, we know what the Gospel of Jesus Christ was:

The time has come; the Kingdom of God is almost here; turn your minds round and believe the good news

Here, Bishop Taylor goes on, is the keynote of the faith of Jesus of Nazareth. Here is the word which, on his lips, moved people with such extraordinary power. If we could resuscitate that declaration so that it conveyed in the terms and in the experience of our world the essence of what it meant to his, might it not stir the pulse and quicken the imagination of a new generation in our own day and restore a clarity of purpose to the churches? Yes, yes, yes! Jesus’ very own poetry invited the people he addressed then, and every generation since, to use their imaginations! (And the Aramaic he spoke, rather gloriously, lends itself to layer upon layer upon layer of interpretation, development and re-membering). Jesus was – and is – anything but a literalist / fundamentalist.

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Tell me the truth about Love – WH Auden | The entrance at Bramhall Parish Centre

And I’ve been thinking today of my friend Fr Roger Clarke who introduced me to the works of the late poet Sally Purcell – because throughout today (and many another) I’ve “heard” the epigraph to her Collected Poems. It speaks to me of the Grace – and of the Art of God

Y sobre todo tendras / los regalos de mi pecho, / las finezas de mi amor, la verdad de mi deseo …

a translation of which is

And above all you have / gifts from my breast, / the subtleties of my love, the truth of my desire

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Thank God The Divine Artist Who, in company with co-creators, invites us all to employ the grace of imagination!

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YOUR GIFT IS YOUR LIGHT

A WRITER so wants to write about this. But the light and the music and the girl and the dance tell their own story. Let the writer be stilled then. Let the writer contemplate being contemplated. Let the writer watch and pray today …

ICE HOT

THE TASK

with Paul David Deakin

MISSIONS SUNDAY in the parish today. Comings and Goings. Fifteen Mission Agencies visiting and speaking about / displaying their various excellent works. Paul Critchlow delivered a marvellous homily at 8am on behalf of Church Army. Isobel Garlick represented International Water Aid at 9am. I preached about the need for a worldwide uniting vision at 10.45am.

Rachael Elizabeth – asked us last Sunday to trust God and to “Be Opened”. Today we said farewell to her, for the time being, as Rachael will begin her studies in Theology in Lampeter at the end of next week. We bless her on her way, thanking God for Rachael's own trust and openness, and glad that she was able to be with us to hear the news we've just announced about her friend …

Paul David Deakin If all goes according to plan the Bishop of Chester will ordain Paul David Deakin to the Office of Deacon in July 2013, to “Serve his Title” (as assistant curate) in our parish. Currently studying at the College of the Resurrection in Mirfield Paul will be returning to his “sending parish” – a relatively rare occurrence. The news was received with joy and we will continue to hold Paul, Angela and their sons in our daily thoughts and prayers

with Rachael Elizabeth

It gladdens my heart that wonderful women and men of goodwill are blessed with the ability to hear the Call of God in our day, and to respond to that call joyfully, willingly and sacrificially. Janet, Graham, Marina, Tracy, John, Jill, Yvonne, Mimi, Ralph, Jenny, Tricia, Geb, Rebecca, Diane, Jill, Phil, Sue, David, Rachael, Paul, Ann, Bob, Ria, Ivon, Sheila, Michael, Val, Frank, Lynn, Jonnie, Margaret, Bryan – a glad and glorious procession – all these live and work in company with countless others … all of whom are known and loved and appreciated by name in the Heart of God.

The Mission of God – opening eyes, unstopping ears, bringing peace to troubled hearts and minds, breaking down barriers – especially those built by mistaken religious intent and politics-gone-bad – warped in favour of power-gone-mad, building, calling, feeding, giving water to the thirsty, healing, learning, praying, pleading, teaching – this is the joyful promise and claim of the reign (what some call the “Kingdom”) of God. And to get there takes no time …

Blessed be the Source of Life's Goodness!

It’s a long way off but inside it
There are quite different things going on:
Festivals at which the poor man
Is king and the consumptive is
Healed; mirrors in which the blind look
At themselves and love looks at them
Back; and industry is for mending
The bent bones and the minds fractured
By life. It’s a long way off, but to get
There takes no time and admission
Is free, if you will purge yourself
Of desire, and present yourself with
Your need only and the simple offering
Of your faith, green as a leaf.

The Kingdom
RS Thomas

 

 

HOLY, HOLY, HOLY

FR RICHARD ROHR is one of the great inspirations of my life and I’m grateful to my friend Ivon Prefontaine for reminding me recently of Richard’s Daily Meditations.

In a series of Meditations on his “lineage”, whilst planning the opening of a new Living School for Action and Contemplation Fr Richard’s meditation on Sunday read

Orthopraxy in much of Buddhism and Hinduism

Orthopraxy is usually distinguished from orthodoxy. Orthodoxy refers to doctrinal correctness, whereas orthopraxy refers to right practice. What we see in many of the Eastern religions is not an emphasis upon verbal orthodoxy, but instead upon practices and lifestyles that, if you do them (not think about them, but do them), end up changing your consciousness.

This was summed up in the Eighth Core Principle of the Center for Action and Contemplation: We don’t think ourselves into a new way of living; we live ourselves into a new way of thinking. I hope that can be a central building block of the Living School.

And – joyfully – today I’ve been chestily croaking ALLELUIA! upon reading today’s thoughts about the witness of art

Unique witness of mythology, poetry, and art

My earliest recordings often included mythological stories, poetry, or art to make the point. Many people are more right-brained learners than left-brained. When you bring in a story, or a poem, or refer to a piece of art, you can see people’s interest triple: “Wow, I’m with you!” Whereas, if you stay on the verbal level all the time, their eyes glaze over, they lose interest, they lose fascination and identification with the message.

I don’t think Western preachers and teachers have really understood the importance of art in general. Until people can “catch” the message with an inner image, it usually does not go deep. We’ve also been afraid of myths that weren’t Christian. In fact, we were afraid of the very word “myth.” We thought it meant something that wasn’t true when, in fact, it’s something that’s always true—if it’s a true myth. This will be a very important substratum of the Living School curriculum.

One of the things I most love and admire about Richard Rohr is his generosity of heart, mind, soul and body. He’s open to seeing the Divine all around us, open to contemplation and to receiving the Wisdom from traditions other – though as he shows us, not always so very “other” – from his own. I love that Fr Richard balances the importance of both orthodoxy and orthopraxy; that he both thinks deeply and feels profoundly. That, it seems to me, is what the call of Jesus Christ – and of other great spiritual masters and teachers – is really all about. As Richard has it, “living ourselves into a new way of thinking”. That’s something all of us can do, all of the time, with or without particular religious frameworks – though many, in the living, will thrive in the kind of religious environment that seeks – as the word religion intends (from Latin religare – “to reconnect, to bind together”) – to bind up the whole.

My friend Mimi is a generous contemplative – Between Night And Day; as is the marvellous Rebecca Koo – Heads or Tails; and Bill Wooten’s – The Present Moment brings a wonderful word from Thomas Merton – and a stunning photo; Francesca Zelnick is as special as her Today’s Special; David Herbert is one of my diocesan friends and I love his latest post (and we share affection for Parker Palmer); and Rachael Elizabeth’s been having a good time doing Christology and incense-sampling ( ! ) in Durham; James Fielden – always showing us “The Way Home” – meditates exquisitely upon Time; Ginny at “Chasing the Perfect Moment” writes about Re-creation; Ria Gandhi has been wondering about who and what’s Beautiful and has flagged up one answer here; Jenni has been Watching the Symphony here.

What are we looking at in all these human “works of art”. What do I see as I reflect upon the colours, upon the wide spectrum that arches over the whole of my life?

Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus

Holy, Holy, Holy

Multi-coloured and blessed sanctity – God’s art: whether we’re always aware of it – or not …