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: in our prayers – contemplative intercession

In the Tuscan hill-town Cortona this June we found ourselves pausing at the shrines of saints and motor bikes. Santa Maria is loved here, and Moto Guzzi is revered. At these sun and candle-lit-shrines we found ourselves praying for others, making prayers both for the possible and prayers for the (seemingly) impossible.

This series of Morning Bell explores the idea of practising contemplative prayer as intercession on behalf of others. And it seeks to understand what may be possible when we tell someone that they are ‘in our thoughts and prayers.’ If the idea of prayer is unusual to you, it’s worth thinking of this process as exploring your yearnings for others. What do you hope for for them?

 

Cortona flyer

 

In contemplative prayer we can gradually move from the stimulation of thoughts, feelings, words and signs (as helpful as they can be) into greater self-awareness, and then opening ourselves up into the possibility of raw divine encounter. In this way we may find ourselves gradually becoming more aware of God’s loving presence in and around us.

In this place of love and acceptance, we discover that God’s presence is both deeply personal, and broad and deep beyond our imagination. Contemplative prayer is both an experience of you and God and an entering into the oneness of all. Here we realise our deep connectedness.

In entering into this experience of connection our prayer signifies and in some way make possible an ever closer union of humanity with each other and with God. The remembering of others, spoken and unspoken, becomes part of the prayer without ceasing to which we are called.

And perhaps we truly find ourselves whenever we pray for others, the act of prayer softening us, calling us into greater generosity as we discern the divine in the ones for whom we are praying.

We are of course sometimes ourselves called to become part of the answer to the prayers we pray. So we may find ourselves being prompted in some practical way to do something for those we are holding. At other times our calling will be simply to remember. To hold. And to leave to God’s care. And this will be enough. For in such remembering the nature of all being is revealed: God is love, and each one we hold is loved by God, yearned for, and held.

Occasionally (and the nature of this is a mystery) in the grace of God the unfolding of a story may be reconfigured. In what can seem like a momentary acceleration towards the omega point – the healing and unity of all things – events and time can take new and surprising directions. So we can find ourselves praying for the extraordinary, for the miraculous, for the seemingly impossible. There has always been a place for this in the tradition. But it’s interesting to recognise that most of the time the miraculous seems to be experienced as God’s presence within the tough times, rather than in some spectacular removal from those tough times.

Here’s a practice of contemplative intercession that we use in Beloved Life:
1) ask ‘who and what am I / are we being called to pray for today?’
2) make simple prayers in your own way for these people, places and situations (perhaps just saying the name)
3) let those prayers evolve into one simple prayer repeated in time with your breathing (perhaps the Jesus Prayer or a similar Prayer Word)
4) gradually let go of this simple prayer, and be open to the possibility of divine presence embracing you and embracing all for whom you have prayed…

All the photographs for this series were taken by Ian in Cortona in June 2016.

We join with you in all your prayers, and in particular we pray for the people of Amatrice and all those affected by the recent earthquake in Italy.
Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy upon us…

Grace, mercy and peace to 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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Morning Bell: when we are gone, the earth

 

This Morning Bell series explores our fraught relationship with the earth. The earth and many of her creatures are under severe pressure. We humans have been at best neglectful and at worst deliberately destructive  – endangering the planet and ourselves. In the Judaeo-Christian stream we are charged with being good stewards of creation. In so many ways we have failed. The text for the series is from Ian’s poem The earth will heal itself  from Running Over Rocks. It’s a bleak poem, appearing to hint that the best hope for the planet may be the  end of the human era.  But there’s hope too. In  the earth’s God-given ability to be ever-creative, and in our potential to make good choices there may yet be a good future for the blue-green planet.

 

Morning bell: when we are gone, the earth series
Morning bell: when we are gone, the earth series

 

Our intention with Morning Bell is for the image and short text to complement each other. We hope that this new series will encourage you to step with us into stillness and prayer each day – and open up new possibilities for action in our caring for the earth and her creatures…

Grace and peace to you
Ian & Gail

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

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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.

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morning bell: wall

 

A new Morning Bell series begins tomorrow – ‘wall’. Ian has always been drawn to take photographs of surfaces, This series features a favourite old wall in the South West of England. We are always amazed at how the act of paying attention to something apparently mundane as a wall can be full of wisdom for life.

 

Morning bell: Wall series
Morning bell: Wall series

 

As always our intention with Morning Bell is for the image and short text to complement each other. We hope that this new series will enable you to step with us into stillness and prayer each day, and open up new possibilities for bringing good to the world in the way and spirit of Jesus the Christ.

Grace and peace to you this Trinity season…
Ian & Gail

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Cave Refectory Road 4: in the refectory

 

In the Refectory 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.

We’re suggesting the refectory – the dining hall or canteen of the monastic settlement – as a symbol of the way of life that an individual or a community seeking to be in the way of the hospitable Jesus might follow. This is the community deciding to offer itself as a source of stability, presence and hospitality to its wider communities. This is the individual seeing their own resources as being a table set for more than one…

 

Cave Refectory road: in the refectory
Cave Refectory road: in the refectory

The monastic tradition almost always sees itself as being expressed in a flow between prayerful engagement with God and activity on behalf of the world – and specifically on behalf of the most needy. This motion invariably begins simply as presence, being alongside and with those who suffer, sharing their situation, and then working to bring relief…

©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 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.

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Morning Bell: Facing Monsters

 

There appear to be many monstrous things happening in the world at this time (but was it not always so) – dehumanising the individual, degrading the earth and bringing destruction to society. We might also reflect that we have our own personal ‘monsters’ to deal with. Morning Bell continues through Epiphany, a season of revelation, by exploring how we might face these monsters. The Desert Fathers and Mothers  – the earliest monastics in the Judaeo-Christian tradition – took very seriously the struggle with monsters (or demons as they referred to them) both in the wider world and within themselves. Jesus himself was known as a teacher who faced up to (and faced down) the demons of his time. One of the greatest challenges for us is how to avoid becoming monstrous in the way we respond to monsters…

 

Morning Bell: Facing Monsters
Morning Bell: Facing Monsters

The ideas for this series are developed further in Ian’s book Running Over Rocks – particularly in the chapters Fight Dragons, With Humility / Choose Courageous / and Face Fear With Love. The images for this series have all been made by Ian this past Autumn and present Winter in Devon hollow-ways and creeks.

Grace and peace to you this Epiphany, may you find all the courage and love you need…
Ian

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.

 

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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.

 

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Morning Bell: Magnificat

 

We continue through Advent  towards Christmas with a new series of Morning Bell beginning tomorrow based on the Magnificat – Mary’s prophetic song of joy as she reflects on the impending birth of her child. To see the Magnificat in context spend time in the first chapter of Luke’s Gospel. Mary’s song suggests that the impact of this birth will be felt around the world for generations to come. Something amazing is happening!

Morning Bell: Magnificat
Morning Bell: Magnificat

The photos from which this set of images have been made were all taken in the harbour side area of the city of Bristol. Spend time with the images and you may detect within them icons of Mary and the Holy Family.

Grace and peace to you this Advent
Ian

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

Tumblr / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram / Flickr / Eyeem

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, via Kindle and all usual online sources including Book Depository with free delivery world-wide.

 

 

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