For these times

Sometimes my unconscious seems to help me process things by giving me a song to sing.

A Brian Wilson song from the Beach Boys’ sublime Pet Sounds album has been surfacing recently. Its words on my lips. The core and final line on repeat.
I guess I just wasn’t made for these times.

Reflecting on the Brexit process and the Trump presidency, the CEO of the International Rescue Committee of the Red Cross and former Labour politician David Miliband has recently suggested that in the UK and USA “our politics and government are setting new standards for dysfunction.” It’s hard to disagree. And around the world every day new standards for dysfunction appear to be set that are evermore destructive to people, to human culture and to the planet.

So I guess I just wasn’t made for these times.

 

 

And I think about disappearing to the hills.
I imagine shipping my family to somewhere civilised.
To a place where people are kind to each other,
welcoming to the stranger,
and good to the earth and her creatures.
Where beauty is loved, knowledge is valued, and mystery is embraced;
where public office is held with dignity and humility;
and where our life together is not treated as a competition
but as shared journey for the benefit of all.

Dream on, you might say.
And so with Brian Wilson, I guess I just wasn’t made for these times.

But as I sing the song I sense a greater truth at work.
A growing realisation that you and I were made for these very times.
That these demanding times (and of course demanding times are nothing new for so many)
are exactly the times for which we were made.

That these are the times and these the places in which we are meant to live and to offer ourselves,
called to be kind to each other,
to welcome the stranger,
and to be good to the earth and her creatures.
Where we love beauty, value knowledge, and embrace mystery;
where we hold any responsibility with dignity and humility;
and treat life together as a shared journey
for the benefit of us all.

The world only changes for the better to the extent that we give ourselves to it with our love.

In the tradition in which I find home the rabbi Jesus of Nazareth affirmed the old Jewish belief that true life comes through loving God and loving neighbour. Loving people – being tender to each other – and loving the Source of All Being – nurturing love for the Wonder, however we do that –
are choices we can make, wherever we are today. We can and must help to reshape the world for good, here and now, where we are.

This will always be costly. But also a source of delight. One of Jesus’ core wisdom sayings – the Beatitudes – puts it like this:
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.

Friends, what if you and I were made for these times?

 

Read More

Morning Bell: Seeking Stillness

We find much of our meaning and sense of self through our actions – through the stuff we make, the actions we take, the things we do. That’s natural, and fine as far it goes. But our true sense of identity is to be found in a deeper place of stillness. We need to discover how to nurture patterns of stillness and movement, of prayer and action, which reshape us, and help us to bring goodness to the world. To venture in this direction will be at the same time both wonderful and disturbing. Stillness is one of the most demanding – and therefore least visited – places on the map of human existence. But it is full of promise.

 

 

The text for the series draws on reflections by Ian on  the practice of stillness in Running Over Rocks. The images for the series are all of an artwork that Ian has come to experience as an icon of stillness – one with which he spends some time most days when in Cambridge in his own attempts to be still and to pray – Daze IV by Antony Gormley, on the Sidgwick Campus of Cambridge University.

Inevitably perhaps we focus on Jesus’ words and actions, but running through the gospels we find at the heart of his practice a consistent commitment to stillness. In the spirit of the Christ may we find the stillness we seek around us and – crucially – within us, wherever we are.

Grace and peace to you for the journey into stillness and action for a better world…
Ian & Gail

There are various other ways to access Morning Bell each day:

Tumblr / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram

 

If you find Morning Bell helpful please considering making a donation towards our work. Friends and supporters we are very grateful for all your help and encouragement!

 

Unfurling cover final - Version 3

Ian’s latest collection of poems Unfurling is out now in paperback and e-format on Canterbury Press, also via your local bookshop, via Kindle and all usual online sources including Book Depository with free delivery world-wide.

 

Read More

Morning Bell: You Are The Light

Welcome to a new series of Morning Bell – a chance each day to experience stillness, to explore contemplation and to enter prayer. In the northern hemisphere we are now deep into Autumn, the hours of darkness lengthening each day. In this series You Are The Light we are returning (as we will continue to do) to the Beatitudes, perhaps the core wisdom teachings of Jesus.

 

you-are-the-light-flyer

 

Our experience is that the Beatitudes don’t get the attention they deserve. Perhaps because they are so demanding. You may know the famous quotation by GK Chesterton: the Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult; and left untried. We sense that the Beatitudes may be a good place to begin or to renew our trying.

The photographs in You Are The Light were all made by Ian around the waterfront in Plymouth. They have just been shown at the North Cornwall Book Festival. Together they form a meditation on the Beatitudes and related sayings of Jesus in chapters 5 & 6 of Matthew’s Gospel, including sayings in which light is the main theme. We think that they are really important in this context. We may be familiar with Jesus’s claim to be the light of the world. Perhaps less familiar with his saying you are the light of the world.

The Beatitudes are demanding but potentially transformative. How might they reshape us for good? And what kind of world might they be calling into being? The light the world needs is yours. You are the light of the world. Let your light shine. And your whole body will be full of light…

Thank you for sharing the spiritual path with us. May grace, peace and light find you…

Ian & Gail

 

There are various other ways to access Morning Bell each day:

Tumblr / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram

If you find Morning Bell helpful please considering making a donation towards our work. Friends and supporters we are very grateful for all your help and encouragement!

 

Unfurling cover final - Version 3

Ian’s latest collection of poems Unfurling is out now in paperback and e-format on Canterbury Press, also via your local bookshop, via Kindle and all usual online sources including Book Depository with free delivery world-wide.

Read More

Morning Bell: pilgrimage series – on the Camino

 

This new Morning bell series for Pentecost and the start of the Trinity season explores pilgrimage. The essence of pilgrimage is a physical journey made with spiritual intention. We hope that this series may inspire you to make such a journey – local or far from home, short or demanding. If that’s not possible may you be able to take something of the spirit of pilgrimage into your life at this time.

Pilgrimage series: on the Camino
Pilgrimage series: on the Camino

Photography for the series is by Natalie Baxter Strange, in which she beautifully documents her own experience of joining the famous pilgrimage route to the shrine of St James in Northern Spain – the Camino de Santiago de Compostela. Natalie says ‘while walking on the Camino I discovered the joy of slowing down and taking photographs. When I slow down and look through the lens of my camera, I notice details I would have otherwise missed. Photography has become another way for me to listen to God and to express something of my faith in him.’ Text for the series is adapted from a Pilgrim’s Prayer commonly used on the Camino. If you want to explore more about pilgrimage Ian has written about the practice in Running Over Rocks.

Grace and peace to you for your own experience of pilgrimage this Pentecost and Trinity…
Ian & Gail

There are various other ways to access Morning Bell each day:

Tumblr / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram / Flickr / Eyeem

Unfurling: poems
Unfurling: poems

Ian’s latest collection of poems Unfurling is out now in paperback and e-format on Canterbury Press, also via your local bookshop, via Kindle and all usual online sources including Book Depository with free delivery world-wide.

Read More

Cave Refectory Road 5: on the road

 

On the Road continues our second year of spiritual practice in Beloved Life. Working with ideas from Ian’s book Cave Refectory Road: monastic rhythms for contemporary living we are exploring how ancient practices from the Jesus tradition might be a gift in our own times and in our own places, helping to bring about the kind of better world that Jesus described as the ‘kingdom of heaven’ coming near.

‘There is great value in stability, but the spiritual search has a dynamic quality, so God may be found in movement as much as in stillness. A significant stream of monastic life always begins to flow from the deep pools of the religious enclosure. The stream flows where it will, unafraid to encounter whoever and whatever it finds. This is the way of the friar.

 

Cave Refectory Road - on the road
Cave Refectory Road – on the road

The experience of friar-disciples is that on the road we may learn something about the companionship of the God-man Jesus, our fellow traveller; something about the guiding of the God-Spirit, full of surprise; and something about the constancy of the God-Parent, drawing us on. Learning on the road can happen in all directions to those who are open to it. The disciple learns from the person encountered, the person encountered learns from the disciple…’

©Ian Adams ‘Cave Refectory Road: monastic rhythms for contemporary living’ (Canterbury Press and Liturgical Press USA)

Look out for short daily posts around this latest theme on Facebook and Twitter. We’ll be doing the practices wherever we are, and we’ll look forward to hearing how you get on – do let us know!

Unfurling: poems
Unfurling: poems

Ian’s latest collection of poems Unfurling is out now in paperback and e-format on Canterbury Press, also via your local bookshop, and all usual online sources including  Book Depository  with free delivery world-wide.

Read More

Morning Bell: 40 Temptations – a series for Lent

 

This Lent series of Morning Bell is a meditation on the nature of temptation. It draws on the Gospel accounts of the 40 day testing and temptation of Jesus in the wilderness, one of the deep roots that have formed the spiritual practice of Lent. These reflections in text and image attempt to see behind any obvious temptation urging us to do something wrong – and to look for the deeper questions that are being asked of us about life, love and faith. If we are truly attentive the apparent temptation or taunt may turn out to offer a gift, enabling us to understand who we are and to embrace what is being called of us.

 

Morning Bell: 40 Temptations - series for Lent
Morning Bell: 40 Temptations – series for Lent

This will be a demanding Lent series, as it should be. The themes are tough, the images have a bleak quality, and the language will be sometimes be earthy. If you need to opt out for a while please do that – be kind to yourself. But as and when you are able, please join us as we journey through wilderness. The photos that form the base of the images begin with a series taken on a train journey this winter.

If you can, check out one of the Gospel accounts of Jesus’s time in the wilderness (Matthew 4.1-11 / Mark 1.12-13 / Luke 4.1-13) and consider how he responded to the temptations that came his way. As we pray and reflect together this Lent no doubt at some point the wild beasts may come, but so too may angels…

Grace and peace to you
Ian & Gail

There are various other ways to access Morning Bell each day:

Tumblr / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram / Flickr / Eyeem

Unfurling: poems
Unfurling: poems

Ian’s latest collection of poems Unfurling is out now in paperback and e-format on Canterbury Press, also via your local bookshop, via Kindle and all usual online sources including Book Depository with free delivery world-wide.

Read More

Morning Bell: if I do not love

 

This series of Morning Bell explores the theme of love. For this series we are pondering and re-mixing lines from St Paul’s famous meditation on love in his letter to the church in Corinth (chapter 13 of 1 Corinthians). He begins by suggesting that without love all our best efforts are worthless (If I do not have love he says I am nothing). He then opens up the possibility of love as it is lived, shared and encountered…

 

Morning bell: if I do not love
Morning bell: if I do not love

The theme of Love is developed further in Ian’s book Running Over Rocks – particularly in the closing chapters Face Fear with Love / Embrace Intimacy / and Give Everything To Find Everything. The images for this series are all from street photos Ian has taken in Plymouth.

Grace and peace to you, beloved…
Ian & Gail

There are various other ways to access Morning Bell each day:

Tumblr / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram / Flickr / Eyeem

Unfurling: poems
Unfurling: poems

Ian’s latest collection of poems Unfurling is out now in paperback and e-format on Canterbury Press, also via your local bookshop, via Kindle and all usual online sources including Book Depository with free delivery world-wide.

Read More

Cave Refectory Road 2: ancient paths, emerging patterns

 

We continue our second year of spiritual practice in Beloved Life. Working with ideas from Ian’s book Cave Refectory Road: monastic rhythms for contemporary living we’ll now begin to explore how ancient practices from the Jesus tradition might be a gift in our own times and in our own places. Cave Refectory and Road describe three related but distinct paths in the traditional monastic life. Each of these paths has the potential to bring about change in us for good in an age of dislocation, upheaval and uncertainty. Each may shape a Christianity that is a gift for the twenty-first century, helping to bring about the kind of better world that Jesus described when he spoke of the ‘kingdom of heaven’ coming near…

 

ancient paths, emerging patterns
ancient paths, emerging patterns

The jazz record ‘Kind of Blue’ by Miles Davis is a constant companion of mine. It’s a piece of music that seems to have the power to give new colour, shape or possibility to the day. It takes some old ingredients, and does something with them that I can only describe as miraculous. The practice of improvisational jazz may be a really helpful way of thinking about how we engage with a living tradition as ancient as that of monasticism…

©Ian Adams ‘Cave Refectory Road: monastic rhythms for contemporary living’ (Canterbury Press and Liturgical Press USA)

Look out for short daily posts around the week’s theme on Facebook and Twitter. We’ll be doing the practices wherever we are, and we’ll look forward to hearing how you get on – do let us know!

Unfurling: poems
Unfurling: poems

Ian’s new collection of poems Unfurling is out now in paperback and e-format on Canterbury Press, also via your local bookshop, and all usual online sources including  Book Depository  with free delivery world-wide.

 

Read More

beloved life practices 52: give everything to find everything

 

WISDOM: The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which someone found and hid; then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.

REFLECTION: ‘One of the greatest (and shortest) of short stories ever told is Jesus’s parable of treasure in the field. The treasure is worth everything. It seems to me that our potential involvement in the bringing of good to the world is truly worth all that we have. That we really need to be ready to Give Everything to Find Everything. And the word give is vital here. Many of these practices rooted in the life and wisdom of Jesus involve a giving away, a letting go, an opening of hands and heart, a dropping away of what we instinctively want to hold close, usually because of fear…’

beloved life: give everything to find everything
beloved life: give everything to find everything

PRACTICE: ‘The practice of Give Everything to Find Everything is about establishing a ritual by which you remind yourself each day of your desire to give everything to find everything, to become the truly human being you are meant to be and to bring good to the world. Only you can decide what your ritual will look like. But I would encourage you to make it physical in some way, perhaps through a gesture or movement, accompanied by words. Make it simple and portable so that you can do it wherever you are…’

©Ian Adams ‘Running Over Rocks: spiritual practices to transform tough times’ (Canterbury Press)

Look out for short daily posts around the week’s theme on Facebook and Twitter. We’ll be doing the practices wherever we are, and we’ll look forward to hearing how you get on – do let us know!

Unfurling: poems
Unfurling: poems

Ian’s new collection of poems Unfurling is out now in paperback and e-format on Canterbury Press, also via your local bookshop, and all usual online sources including  Book Depository  with free delivery world-wide.

Read More

beloved life practices 51: embrace intimacy

 

REFLECTION: ‘I love you. One simple phrase that is being uttered many times all over the planet as you read this. I love you awakens old dreams, and brings new worlds into being. So much of our possibility as human beings is connected to our desire for intimacy – for the love of another, for connection and belonging, for unity and at-oneness, without defence or fear, without shame or anxiety. Intimacy is vital for our well-being. But intimacy can be demanding. The gifts of intimacy can also be its uncomfortable challenges. Are we up for vulnerability, for letting go of control, for letting the other be the other? The practice of Embrace Intimacy is about (re)discovering the vitality of intimacy for ourselves – intimacy with another human being, intimacy with the earth, and intimacy with God – and allowing that intimacy to enable us to bring good to the world…’

 

beloved life: embrace intimacy
beloved life: embrace intimacy

 

PRACTICE: ‘Begin this practice by reflecting on your own recent experiences of intimacy. To what extent have these been characterized by attention, vulnerability, honesty and tenderness? If you are without a partner your yearning for intimacy must not be ignored. And if you do have a partner true intimacy needs to a reciprocal thing, being nurtured within a wider environment of commitment and devotion. There is currently a great openness, both I think for better and for worse, around sex and sexuality. Within that culture of openness we need, for a better world, to see a renewed emphasis on the nurturing of true intimacy and tenderness. It starts of course, with each one of us. So Embrace Intimacy!

©Ian Adams ‘Running Over Rocks: spiritual practices to transform tough times’ (Canterbury Press)

Look out for short daily posts around the week’s theme on Facebook and Twitter. We’ll be doing the practices wherever we are, and we’ll look forward to hearing how you get on – do let us know!

Unfurling: poems by Ian Adams 2014
Unfurling: poems by Ian Adams 2014

Ian’s new collection of poems Unfurling is out now in paperback and e-format on Canterbury Press, also via your local bookshop, and all usual online sources including  Book Depository  with free delivery world-wide.

Read More