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: 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

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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.

 

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Morning Bell: Thy Kingdom Come

Our series for the period from Ascension day until Pentecost is taking the theme Thy Kingdom Come, joining in with a global prayer movement which has grown out of an invitation of the Archbishops’ of Canterbury and York in 2016 to the Church of England to engage in prayer. Thy Kingdom Come is now an international and ecumenical call to prayer. In praying ‘Thy Kingdom Come’ says Archbishop Justin, we all commit to playing our part in the renewal of the nations and the transformation of communities.

 

 

The images for the series are all from a visit Ian made in 2016 to Norwich and Norfolk. Ian has written a blog post for Thy Kingdom Come, asking What happens when we pray Thy Kingdom Come?

May this Ascensiontide be a season in which our love for Jesus the Christ is deepened, and our prayer renewed…
Grace and peace to you
Ian & Gail

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

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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.

 

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Morning Bell: Easter Anthems

Our series for Easter explores how the resurrection of Jesus might change us and reshape the world for good. Is it possible that in some way we may encounter and find new hope in the risen Christ?

 

 

Ian’s images for the series are of a sculpture we love – made by Kathleen Scott, wife of the explorer – situated in the grounds of the Scott Polar Institute in Cambridge. The model for the sculpture was A W Lawrence, younger bother of T E ‘Lawrence of Arabia.’

The text for the series is taken from three canticles or songs of the Church – the Easter Anthems, the Victimae Paschali  – A Song of the Resurrection, and A Song of Christ’s Appearing.

May the hope and wonder of the Christ’s resurrection be a gift to you this Easter season…

Grace and peace to you
Ian & Gail

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

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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.

 

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Morning Bell: Wilderness Taunts

Our series for Lent 2017 uses images from Ian’s new book Wilderness Taunts: revealing your light. This began as a personal journey in which Ian re-imagined the temptations faced by Jesus as taunts that might throw us off balance – critical voices from external sources and from within ourselves. His experience was that when faced with honesty and openness, the truth of these taunts, however disturbing, also begins to reveal some deeper truth. In the darkness, our light is revealed…

 

 

The full text reflecting on each taunt, together with additional images are in the book. Thank you for sharing the spiritual path with us. May grace, peace and light find you this Lent…

Ian & Gail

 

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

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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.

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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

 

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

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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.

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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

 

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

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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.

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Morning Bell: Mercy series

‘The mercy of God is not an abstract idea’ says Pope Francis ‘but a concrete reality’. This series of Morning Bell is exploring the concept and the reality of mercy, and how the practice of mercy might reshape us and the world for good.

Text for the series is from Misericordiae Vultus – the declaration in which Pope Francis called for a Year of Mercy. Images for the series are all from a recent visit we made to the city of Liverpool, and many feature the wonderful Metropolitan Cathedral of Christ the King.

 

mercy flyer

 

In pausing together for stillness and prayer each day we hope that we may each find mercy reaching out to us as we reach out our own hands in mercy to others…

Grace, mercy and peace to you

Ian & Gail

 

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

Tumblr / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram / Flickr / Eyeem

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 3Flyer for Spring-Summer 2016 gigs

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: 40 Invitations – series for Easter

This new series for the Easter season titled 40 Invitations runs from Resurrection Sunday until Ascension day. It draws on themes and phrases from the stories told in the gospels about the resurrection of Jesus, inviting us to live in the spirit of resurrection here and now. The core of each of these 40 reflections was written in real time in Easter 2015 as Ian attempted to let the resurrection story work on him. And the heart of each invitation remains here as it was written then, retaining the raw surprise of the Easter experience. We hope that you will find something of yourself here.

 

Peace Be With You flyer

 

Images for the series were taken by Ian on Iona and Mull. We hope that they convey something of the vibrancy of the resurrection possibility.

If you enjoy this series the full text and additional images are available to download now from Proost. This Easter season may you discover the resurrected Jesus already living around you and within you. And so may everything change for good…

Ian & Gail

 

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

Tumblr / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram / Flickr / Eyeem

 

Unfurling cover final - Version 3Flyer for Spring-Summer 2016 gigs

 

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!

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: 40 Temptations – series for Lent

We begin a new series for the season of Lent: 40 Temptations. This series draws on the gospel accounts of the testing and temptation of Jesus in the wilderness. In this series Ian has re-imagined the temptations that we might face as taunts that might throw us off balance. In our experience there is an element of truth in each taunt – but if we face them with honesty we may discover, in the grace of God, the gift of some greater reality.

 

40 Temptations square cover

 

 

Ian wrote a reflection based on these 40 Temptations ‘in real time’ each day in Lent last year – the full text and images are available to download now from online publisher Proost. The images for the series are all made from photographs reflecting the bleak beauty of our urban landscape.

This series is demanding – perhaps as it should be in Lent. Please be kind to yourself, and take a break should you need one. As we pray and reflect together with Morning Bell may we find all the strength and grace we need to allow this season to do its work of preparation and transformation within us…

Ian & Gail

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

Tumblr / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram / Flickr / Eyeem

 

Unfurling cover final - Version 3Flyer for Spring 2016 gigs

 

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!

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