CYCLE CAFÉ

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STEAMING ESPRESSO in hand I’m reflecting that I’ve watched the cycle of the seasons in Greystoke for over thirty years. A day or two ago the Japanese acer in the garden was clothed in gold – but not for nothing is frost described as “a nip in the air” and overnight every last leaf had been nipped and floated to the ground, back to the soil from whence it came. Fall and rising. Fall and rising. The pattern of resurrection, again and again. And it is startlingly beautiful. All is well.

THE SPIRIT’S GIFTS

PENTECOST is a great day to engage with a group of wonderful, gifted people preparing for Confirmation. We’ve 11 candidates this year and amongst the many present day gifts, hopes and aspirations represented in the group are languages / interpreting, veterinary surgery, counselling, law, physiotherapy, university teaching, mothering, good family life and friendship.

Each candidate is a delight in his or her own right and the Life and gifts of God’s Spirit are individually and uniquely tailored in, upon and for each of them – as for each and every living person. Confirmation will honour, affirm and confirm the unique gifts in each, and – perhaps most especially – the gift of faith, of confidence and trust in this wonderful Life’s provision. As God once revealed God’s name to Moses as “I AM” so, sharing in the same “family name”, each of this year’s candidates will continue to go and to grow in the strength of that familial relationship: “I am ….” and “I am ….” and “I am ….”.

And this morning we celebrated the sacrament of Holy Baptism in the context of the Eucharistic celebration – joyfully acknowledging connection with another young Christian, and hers with us. And we further celebrated my colleague Fr David’s 45 years of service as a deacon, and 44 years as a priest. Added to that we celebrated the life and vibrant witness of Christ’s Church across 2000+ years, and our own blessed vocations within the universal family of the God who made and sustains each and every one of us.

I AM

I AM smiles upon us, calling us to ever deeper greatness, compassion, grace and love. I AM smiles upon us, calling us in the power of the Spirit to more and more Christ-like-ness, to more and more Anointed-like-ness. I AM smiles upon us, calling us to be gracious and loving and compassionate with ourselves – so that we’re built up in strength and in confidence to be all these things and more for others. I AM smiles upon us, calling us to open our hearts and souls and minds and bodies in loving and compassionate prayer and concern for brutalised people in Syria, in Stockport, and in many places all over the world. I AM smiles upon us, summoning us to care for the sick and the sorrowing.

I AM smiles upon us, gifting all human persons with unique blessings that may be put to good and creative use, contributing immeasurably to the sum total of faith and hope and love and healing hugs and peals of laughter in a beautiful, but in places torn and damaged world; in our spectacularly beautiful, but in places torn and damaged hearts. I AM smiles upon us, and at Pentecost, fifty days after the Feast Day of the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus, we are, most decidedly and assuredly, celebrating anointed LIFE.

I am alive and thriving in the Life and Love of I AM. And I am profoundly thankful.

ASCENDING ALLELUIAS

I OFTEN SPEAK about life’s being, for me, a colour-full affair. I’ve read on several occasions that some blind people can “see” in their dreams. This doesn’t surprise me.

Anger, anxiety,
adoration and awe,
celebration, communion,
confession, consolation,
consternation, contemplation,
dying, fear, joy,
lamentation, loneliness,
longing, love,
Magnificat, meditation, mediation,
passion, poetry, prayer and prose,
sadness, sleepiness, silence, song

– any and all forms of worship – often translate for me into vivid and fluid colour. The movement is gentle and healing. And thankfully, for a minimalist like me, the colour sometimes involves shades of plain and lovely uncluttered white. Neither the movement nor the colours are loud or aggressive or overwhelming. But they are bright. And each represents someone, some emotion, or some thing. A bit of time spent with “Alleluia” above may reveal some faces and one or two particular spaces …

In common with many artists, pray-ers and writers I think of our ultimate Heaven as fullness of life expressed in colours hitherto beyond our wildest seeing and dreams, but utterly reminiscent, too, of experiences we’ve known throughout our incarnate lives, here, in “this world”. Our hymn book contains a (much too long) version of the Ascensiontide “Hail the day that sees him rise”. Printed service orders (our Sunday usage) allow for discreet pruning. Not so when we use the hymn book, as we did on Thursday. So lots and lots of alleluias! For me though the words sometimes become the means of transport to a different level of seeing and / or hearing.

This “Alleluia” developed whilst humming “Hail the day” on and off over a period of about 48 hours. Sometimes these paintings start out with canvas or paper, paint and brush, and are photographed and digitally developed later. For this one the “medium” has been entirely my miracle iPad with BoxWave stylus. Have a great Sunday-after-Ascension. And may your Alleluias be colour-full and joyful.

MARY’S DRESS

BANK HOLIDAY weekend affords a happy extension to “left brain time.” There are always more books I want to read, more paintings I want to paint, more photographs I want to make, more writing to be done, more poems to unfold, more prayer to be celebrated, more people to share some time and stories with, more songs to be sung, more colours to be marvelled at, more silence to be revelled in – than time ordinarily allows. And that very fact is cause for thanksgiving! Life is indeed a rich tapestry. The signs of the reign, the joy of God, are all around me. And I’m immensely thankful for the connections that blogging makes possible with people all around the world.

Today’s artwork is inspired, in Eastertide, by Mary Magdalene, beloved apostle of Jesus, first witness to new life in the Resurrection, loyal provider of intimate and loving support and sustenance, someone generous, open-hearted and giving, someone who just “knew” instinctively, what Jesus’ mission on earth was about, someone released, by God’s goodness, from the kind of prison every one of us finds ourselves in from time to time.

All human persons are “bedevilled” by “Legion” the perpetually underlying and taunting belief that somehow we’re failing to make the grade, we’re unlovable, bigger and better “failures” than anyone else, destined to be “alone”, faithless, heartbroken, misunderstood, wretched. All human persons yearn for the kind of release that Jesus’ love and acceptance brought about in Mary’s life; for the kind of release that she brought about in his.

Mary Magdalene: someone cruelly maligned and abused by religious patriarchy and misogyny across the centuries, but all the while someone I’ve admired and looked to as an icon of life’s richness and fullness, of life’s goodness and generosity, of life’s being – under the vivifying reign of God – a beautifully, colourfully, gorgeously dressed dance with our Creator.

Sydney Carter described Jesus as The Lord of the Dance. In my heart I think of Mary of Magdala as Jesus’ dance-partner and she is clothed, dressed, like the environment all around and about her, in colour and glory. And theirs is a partnership, theirs is a dance that, far from being exclusive and excluding, invites you and I to join. “Shall we dance?”, Mary asks. “And shall we sing?”, asks the Lord of the Dance. And sometimes the colours blur a little in the swirling. And sometimes they’re blended by our tears …

Have you seen the wonder of it? Have you seen Mary’s dress?

GLANCING …

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THERE’S AN ENCOUNTER with Heaven in William P Young’s The Shack  that has left an indelible mark on me. It’s a vivid, vital vision of colour-expressed emotions

a wash of ruby and vermillion, magenta and violet, as the light and color whirled around and embraced him …

Countless connections. Whirling. Swirling. Shimmering. Glowing. Loving. Forgiving. Embracing. Changing. And – ever since I read the book – gifts of daily such “visions” have delighted me.

The artist Wendy Rudd recently encouraged me, and a group of friends, to let go of “right brain” connection sometimes and let “left brain” make itself heard. I’ve blessed her many times for that encouragement. I let go of mental overload, on a fairly regular basis, by listening / looking instead to “left brain”, allowing wordiness to become colour and image. And colours – perpetually glancing, gently bumping and bouncing into and through one another, make connections and communion …

RISE AND SHINE

MY FATHER has a small square Instamatic photograph he made of me when I was a boy of 5 or 6, just waking up, in a white ridge tent, pitched on the side of Lake Bala in North Wales. I’d gone to sleep dreaming about my first angling success, having landed the tiniest tiddler you ever saw, the night before. Pride and delight was mixed, poignantly and paradoxically, by my sadness at the death of the little chap. So my patient Dad provided a small matchbox into which the little fish was reverently placed before I presided solemnly over my first burial.

I must have slept deeply and well. I remember now the slight chill, and the scent of canvas, a small camping stove, sausages, a boiling kettle. But even then I was never at my sharpest in the early mornings. Colours melded, waking encountered mist and a measure of reluctance. “Wake up, son. Rise and shine. It’s breakfast time.” And Dad’s photo captured the half-awake moment when the night became light and – through canvas and my own mind’s mist – boyish delight and colour glowed, stretching, reaching, like the spectrum in this painting.

RISEN!

YOU KNOW PEOPLE

YOU KNOW people there. Their faces are photographs on the wrong side of your eyes

Carol Ann Duffy, In Your Mind