Let it shine!

I remember reading Mandela’s autobiography, Long Walk to Freedom, 26 years ago, in my first year as a Prison Chaplain. It had a profound effect on me. The story of a man who spent 27 years in prison, for daring to stand up to injustice on a industrial scale.

The title is simple but profound, refelecting an internal and external journey, and an indomitable spirit. He was a grace filled human being. I’ve chosen the quote above, because it encapsulates something of his own motivation and drive to help others discover their own grace.

One of the most difficult things we have to do on our life journey is to understand what grace is and how to share it. Please believe me I am no expert, simply an observer and seeker after grace. But what is grace? I don’t know is the answer, because there is no one definition; it is many things, and I think as unique to each of us, as we are.

For Nelson Mandela (see the quote above), it was something about ‘light’. Not defined, but something intangilble, that becomes real to others. This is grace, because is helps others find their own light and is not possessive or coercive. As I was ruminating on all this, I came across a translation (Contemporary English Version) of John’s Gospel, Chapter 1 verse 14; ‘The Word became a human being and lived here with us. We saw his true glory, the glory of the only son of the Father. From him, all the kindness and all the truth of God have come down to us.’ God’s grace in the person of Jesus Christ; offerd humbly.

Humility is a sign of the reality of God’s grace offered initially to us, but also through us to others in kindness and truth. Graceful moments…Jesus Christ, the Word become human and living with us, moment by moment. Mandela witnessed to this in his own unique way, as each of us do, in our particular manifestation in this time.

Thank you for who you are and the grace that has been given to you. You will ‘shine’ in your own way and as a result, ‘will give other other people permission to do the same.’

Here is a prayer you might like to use:

Creator of life and grace,

Giver of hope in fear and love in anxiety.

Help me to find your grace in everyday moments,

And calm in the storm.

Peace in the challenges

And the knowledge of your love.

Quite simply your gracefulness to share

With others. Amen

Dimming of the day..

I feel slightly awkward writing today’s blog. It’s 10.47 in the morning on 29th April…no where near the dimming of the day. But this photograph chose me and I’m led to write on the theme!!!

Helen and I are great fans of the singer, Alison Krauss. She sings a very evocative version of the Bonny Rait song; ‘Dimming of the day’. It’s a song that speaks of the trials of human love. The first verse ends with these words; ‘When all my will is gone you hold me sway, and I need you at the dimming of the day.’ These words resonate on lots of levels. Juxtapose them with the photograph above.

Perhaps I should stop here and you can write your own response. But just before you do, just an observation, if I may? The words I’ve noted above can be equally applied to the love of God for you and I. In the darkest moments, of which we have had or are having, or might have, these words speak of relationship with another even in those ‘dimming of the day’ experiences.

I don’t want to make any further comment, at the risk of saying too much, so here are some familiar words from the opening words of John’s Gospel (Chapter 1, verse 5) as the writer tries to descibe the indescribable; ‘The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.’

Hope

Light and darkness….hope and fear. Balance is the thing, but hard to reach sometimes. In my years working as a Chaplain in Prisons I had my fair share of trying to maintain balance, in the midst of fear, and the desire for hope, personally and for others.

At times I was drained of hope and all that happened was tears. I was often profoundly aware of those simple words in John’s Gospel, when Jesus had heard of the death of his friend, Lazarus; ‘Jesus wept’. The Son of God, crying out of loss for a dear friend. Jesus eventually raised Lazarus back to life, but stay with that very human moment of helplessness. We each have our own story which we offer to God.

In that very act of offering we may hear silence. Don’t fear…listen, for that still small voice of calm…imperceptible, but able to be sensed, even if we are in turmoil.

Bless you.

Thanks

I think the word, ‘Thanks’ is the most powerful in the English language. It can change a moment; transforn a relationship; break down barriers…..the list is endless!

I just want to thank you for taking time to read my musings; it is a blessing to me that you do. Sorry that sounds very self referential! Because it is!

This photgraph of the risen Christ was taken last year outside a church in the Gower Peninsula. Shamefully I can’t remember where. It speaks in it’s own unique way, and I don’t want to spoil the moment with words.

These days which we pass through challenge each of us in different ways. Thankfullness in the middle of tragedy and loss, seems crass. But the banging of pans and clapping once a week, on Thursday evening, in this country (and others) reminds us of the balance we need… the compassion of all kinds of people; self giving.

The carving reminds us that even the creator and sustainer of the universe, understands separation and loss and self giving.

Thanks……

The Road

So much time, to think, ponder, wonder, worry, try to make sense of all that unfolds in our world and planet. Moments to remember what has passed in our lives; hopes, fears, longings, missed opportunities, and looking ahead, if we dare, to what might be.

Our vision of our lives in this place in which we find ourselves, perhaps feels like being adrift in a rudderless boat, at the mercy of things we cannot control. There are lots of things that we share with others, whether they or we are able to verbalise what lies in our hearts.

We’re in the Easter season still; the timing of the pandemic resonates with the uncertainty of Jesus’ disciples after his crucifixion. They were lost, rudderless, bereaved, seemingly let down by the one they trusted. If we are honest, we might feel some of this in the moment we are living through, but also for the times of difficulty in the past when we felt alone.

Just before the scenario of our gospel reading, the disciples were struggling and locked away. It was the women who went to the tomb and were met with the presence of two angels and an empty tomb. Just try and process that one! To add to the shock, no body, plus angels verbalising the simple phrase, ‘He is not here, He is risen.’ Let that resound in your heart and soul, today.

Then we move to our reading and we are even given the name of one of the two disciples walking away from Jerusalem to Emmaus: Cleopas. Down hearted, let down. The risen Jesus catches up with them and opens the conversation with a kind of, ‘What’s up guys?!’ They respond with a simple, ‘Are you kidding?!’ They chatter away on a stream of consciousness; stressed and fearful. Even as Jesus tells them more, they can’t hear or see what is in front of them!

They do the right things, but miss the point, even inviting Jesus to stay with them and eat, when they reach Emmaus. During the meal, he very simply, took bread, gave thanks, broke it and gave it to them. Suddenly, the penny dropped and simply Jesus moved on, out of their physical presence.

How easy it is to miss Jesus in our lives. Worry, fear, distraction, complexity, self pity,…we can each make our own list! But the witness of this account in the Gospel of Luke, is that Jesus Christ is only a breath away. We simply need to be ‘tuned in’. It is very easy, I agree, to get lost in self pity and anxiety and our own limited vision.

But we need to stop, ‘have a moment’ and sense that the Risen Lord of the Gospel stories is with us in the events of each day, as he was with the two disciples walking along a dusty road, carrying uncertainty in their hearts.

The Risen Lord, bless you and keep you and accompany you on your road and life journey.

Humour

Need I say any more?! Photograph taken on our daily walk. What is going through the bird’s mind?

How do we see things; ourselves, the times we are going through. God in all this.

A prayer;

Lord we are seeking, but not always finding.
Moving, but not catching up.   
Questioning, but silence reigns.
Lost, but not being found.
Listening for your still small voice,
but hearing silence.
The bird looks...perhaps she has found;
in ways that we miss.
Give us your grace,
which knows no bounds.
Amen

The Lord bless you and keep you in each moment of each day

Blue sky thinking

I guess that’s about it! If I may share something…where does all this thinking of mine lead? I was heading for a no blog day. Then had a look at some photographs I took on a lunchtime walk with Helen a couple of hours ago.

The phrase, ‘blue sky thinking’ popped into my mind. It will now never leave me alone for hours! I found a snappy definition; ‘Creative ideas free from practical constraints’! We all think about lots of things at a time like this, which we find ourselves living through and trying to make sense of, or adapt to. Simple answers there are none, and even when we think we find them, they end up disappointing or lacking coherence.

Perhaps now isn’t the time for answers I hear my inner voice proclaim! But surely this is the moment…oh dear. Being a person of faith and a priest backs me into a metphorical corner, where answers are demanded. But I have no knock down answers, that would be presumptuous. I’m not lost, just perplexed. My experience tells me that this will take time; like the cycle of the seasons, the forming and development of clouds. I’m looking to the Creator for help with creative ideas held within practical constraints and thinking. Goodness me, that’s some ask!!

And here’s a bit of an answer from the moment Jesus shared his final meal with his friends. As he looked at this group of no doubt very frightened people he says these profound words, which I leave with you; ‘Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you…’

Crossing Point

I’m not immediately sure why I’ve chosen this photograph. It was taken last summer whilst we were visiting friends in North Wales. But here it is.

There are lots of elements in the scene; light, shade, moving water; fallen tree. If we give ourselves a space, we will experience our own interpretation. Just try it for yourself, it may just be a feeling or a word or a sense. Whatever pops into your head, hold it for a moment; write it down.

I have to say, I’m pretty bad at doing this, so there’s my confession! But persevere, if only for the sake of this blog! As I look at this scene again it reassures me. Nothing big, just some words from Jeremiah in the Old Testament…’Blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord…He/She is like a tree planted by water, that does not fear when heat comes.’ Profound. Even the dead tree becomes a bridge…..a sense of hope and something beyond this moment

I want to end here because too many words can get in the way. Give yourself a space sometime today to reflect on the photgraph.

Something Understood?

Forgive the lack of a post today…but here’s something late on! My best friend has just taken up icon painting and very generously gave me this icon of St Basil….of whom more tomorrow!

I placed a statue of Buddha in fromt of St Basil, as a reminder of the diverse and very precious world we are part of. I had a Buddhist colleague working within the chaplaincy team in HMP Durham. Brother Finan is a very special person and we had many conversations about faith.

Simply, I thank God for you, for all, for always

Doubt and faith

I’m getting into some kind of pattern in the writing of this daily blog. Patterns are not really my thing, but to be frank if I don’t ‘patternise’ (sorry) my thinking, this would never happen.

The pattern for the moment (subject to change) is that I’ll look back through photograph albums and then choose one that resonates and allows me to hang thoughs upon it.

Waves; a statement of the obvious! The photograph was taken in February this year, just before the world changed. I have never thought of waves as having a prophetic element, but perhaps this needs a re-think. My memory of the moment I took this photograph is one of overwhelming power and relentlessness; but not necessarily in a forboding way. I think I just stood and watched for some time, before I took the shot. Anyway, that’s something of the back story.

But why the heading; ‘Doubt or Faith’? Hazzarding a guess, I think we all live each moment in either one state or another. Perhaps holding both in tension at the same time. I remember having a conversation with my line -manager in the first prison I worked in. He was an avowed atheist, and we used to have occasional moments of ‘sparring’ as he called our exchanges. At one point we came to a pause and he looked at me and said…`Barrie, there’s something about you people that makes me wonder!’ We laughed and sparred a little more. I was always honest with him about doubt and faith and how we needed to hold them in tension, Sometimes there were no answers, just living with tension.

I’ll come to the point. For me there is no faith without doubt, and that is being tested in these moments in which we live. There are times when one reaches an impasse and the feeling is one that I can only imagine is like being like a rope held in tension in a tug of war match. The tension is where we can find stability in a strange way. The witness of life is that God reaches us in the most of unlikely of ways or places. Doubt is not a negative but a place on the road to faith. It’s not a steady state of bliss I’m looking for, it is the still point, which may be fleeting, but which speaks of something deeper than I know or normally access.

As always thank you taking a moment to read this blog.