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Peace and joy

December 31, 2018

On the cusp of the New Year, I’ve been reflecting on peace, having heard a talk at church on 2 Thessalonians 3:16.

The first time I stepped into St Aldates in the summer of 2017, I almost didn’t. I was stood outside listening to Lauryn Hill’s I gotta find peace of mind, wondering whether or not to venture into a church full of people when I was feeling pretty restless. What I found there was protected vulnerability, a place to be ourselves with God and each other, a healthy challenge to the pendulum swing of periphery and performance which can (but thankfully doesn’t have to) characterise church-going.

That first time I was drawn in, I sat down, moved to another seat, sat down again and looked up and saw The Return of the Prodigal Son by Rembrandt. I was reading a book by Henri Nouwen on that very painting at the time. Seeing that picture of homecoming was like coming home. And the talk was on peace (you can listen to the podcast here).

I love the progression in the song by Lauryn Hill from anguish to relief, from plea to praise, from ‘I gotta find peace of mind’ to ‘Oh what a merciful, merciful, merciful God/ Oh what a wonderful, wonderful, wonderful God’. And that declaration, ‘What a joy it is to be alive’. Yes, what a joy! Here’s to a blessed and peaceful 2019.

‘Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times and in every way. The Lord be with you all.’ (2 Thessalonians 3:16)

Nativity

December 25, 2018
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from spiralling ecstatically this
proud nowhere of earth’s most prodigious night
blossoms a newborn babe: around him, eyes
– gifted with every keener appetite
than mere unmiracle can quite appease –
humbly in their imagined bodies kneel
(over time space doom dream while floats the whole
perhapsless mystery of paradise)

mind without soul may blast some universe
to might have been, and stop ten thousand stars
but not one heartbeat of this child; nor shall
even prevail a million questionings against the silence of his mother’s

smile – whose only secret all creation sings.

(e. e. cummings)

Image result for nativity michelangelo with st francis and st lawrence

Nativity with St. Francis and St. Lawrence (Caravaggio, 1609)

Let Us Adore (Jamie Thomson and Simon Ponsonby)

Song story: https://www.staldatesworship.com/songs#/dec/

The beginning of the Light winning!

December 17, 2018

This year, as well as attending beautiful carols by candelight services, I have had the privilege of being present at several Hanukkah candle lightings. When we’d made it past the fourth candle, the one who was lighting the hanukkiyah said, ‘This is the beginning of the light winning!’

Hanukkah, the Jewish Festival of Lights or the Feast of Dedication as it is known, is mentioned in the Gospel of John (10:22), which begins with that wonderful declaration of light and life (see In the beginning…).

Now we are well and truly in the heart of advent, the season of remembering that The Light Came Down and looking ahead to when the “night will be no more” (Revelation 22). This advent song by The Brilliance speaks (and sings) of this light and hope:

‘Arise, shine, for your light has come,
    and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you.
For behold, darkness shall cover the earth,
    and thick darkness the peoples;
but the Lord will arise upon you,
    and his glory will be seen upon you.
And nations shall come to your light,
    and kings to the brightness of your rising.’

(Isaiah 60:1-3)

Seasons Change, Fruit Remains

November 27, 2018

Along with Ray Lamontagne (give me Ray any day, come rain or shine), I’ve been listening to Corinne Bailey Rae, a homonymn with her own sound. Best known, perhaps, for Put Your Records On (and what a tune that is!), other musical gems of hers include Like A Star and, I discovered recently, Seasons Change:

Don’t you know that/ That patience is a virtue?/ Yes, it is/ And life is a waiting game/ Don’t you know that peace must be learned to you?

I love those words, ‘Don’t you know that peace must be learned to you?’ In French, apprendre (literally to apprehend) means both to learn and to teach. So you learn something to someone. Peace must be learned to us. And who better to teach us peace than the Prince of Peace?

In this ‘season of mists and mellow fruitfulness’ (John Keats, To Autumn), I am reminded of the fruit of the Spirit, where patience follows peace, and joy follows love.

Though the seasons change, Your love remains

‘To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven’ (Ecclesiastes 3:1).

Love my (thy) neighbour

September 25, 2018

A recent trip to Nottingham got me listening to Nottingham-born music artist Liam Bailey again and I’ve discovered new songs like this one which speaks for itself (and for ‘all those everyday people’ who seek to love their neighbour as themselves):

It reminded me of a recent trip to Liverpool, where I saw this:

Bold Street

Evidently, those words still resonate today: ‘love your neighbour as yourself’ (see Matthew 22:35-40).

What is more, he put what he said into practice in laying down his life for his friends (see John 15:13) and offering life in all its fullness (see John 10:1-18), leading to reconciliation (see Romans 5:7-8).

Reconciliation

Resurrection.jpg

Bold Street, Liverpool, 2018

P.E.A.C.E.

September 21, 2018
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Today is International Day of Peace.

We all long for world peace. When he walked on earth, Jesus said, ‘Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled neither let them be afraid’ (John 14).

Recently, I heard Johnny Shahwan speak about his peace-making, community-building work in Bethlehem, where Jesus was born: http://www.beit-al-liqa.de/?lang=en. Johnny spoke about ‘building a generation of peace and caring for the whole family’ and ‘sharing the love of Christ in a practical way’, and he encouraged us ‘to pray for peace and to be doers of peace’, inspired by the Prince of Peace.

‘For to us a child is born,
    to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
    and his name shall be called
Wonder, Counselor, Mighty God,
    Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.’

(Isaiah 9:6)

Discovery

September 12, 2018

Rivers & Robots have released a new album. Cannot recommend this highly enough. So good for the soul!

Check out http://www.timetosetsail.com – where faith meets art.

Ac-know-ledge-me(a)nt

September 4, 2018

You know me better than myself
Make me better than I am

Oh, you know me well, know me well, know me well
Oh, you know me well, know me well, know me well

The words of this endearing song which opens Roo Panes’ first album, Little Giant, reminds me of Psalm 139, a beautiful prayer-song of acknowledgement and recognition:

‘O LORD, you have searched me and known me! […] I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. […] Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting’ (from Psalm 139; listen here).

I’m stronger when I know that you know me well
Know me well, know me well
Oh, you know me well, know me well, know me well

On the Train Ride Home

August 31, 2018

Still I was praying on the train ride home… If I can’t get the things I want… Just give me what I need

Recently, I came across a new album by The Paper Kites. This song particularly resonated with me, as ‘on the train ride home’ is pretty much the unfinished story of my life. Plus it’s about prayer, that constant dialogue we can have with the Giver of Life. They say, ‘I want doesn’t get’, yet God in his wisdom provides for our every need. We can’t get, but in his grace he gives. Our Heavenly Father knows what we need before we ask him (see Matthew 6:5-15) and he loves to hear from us!

Open Space

August 11, 2018

‘My heart is an open space’ ~ Housefires

In many ways, August feels like an open space – a time to tie up loose ends, to type up thoughts, to tiptoe into new possibilities…

As we take the time to reflect on rest and refreshment, creation and creativity, seasons and Sabbath, here are a few resources which do just that: re-source, turning and returning our attention to the Source of Love and Life.

  • A verse from Scripture: ‘He brought me out into a spacious place;
        he rescued me because he delighted in me’ (Psalm 18).