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?

 

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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

 

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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.

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