Month: June 2021

Keep your face to the sun

These little cygnets are enjoying the warmth of the sun which mirrors the warmth of the love of their Heavenly Father.

Another Tweet from my friend, Joyce Smith.

When I was studying Theology at University, my Old Testament Professor gave an illustrated lecture on excavations at Ai a Canaanite town destroyed by the Israelites under Joshua’s leadership. (Book of Joshua Chapters7 & 8).
It’s funny what makes you remember things but the final slide (it was a long time ago!) was of the entire site after the excavations had finished and most of it was in dark shadow. Innocent students that we were and not wishing to embarass him, we asked the Professor what this ‘shadow’ meant. He sighed deeply, ‘that’s my wife’ she got in the way of the camera!’

Photographers know that an otherwise excellent photograph can be ruined by someone who gets in the way of the camera. The ‘subject’ is plunged into shadow. It’s like an eclipse of the sun.

So Helen Keller in her quotation offers good advice. The two cygnets are lit by the sun with only a tinge of shadow behind them. Their faces are, as Joyce says, are enjoying the full warmth of the sun. She draws the parallel that this is a mirror of the warmth of our Heavenly Father poured out on all of us.

This is therefore not about photography, beautiful though the image is.

At one level it is a word of encouragement. Look towards the Son, towardsGod, and shadow and darkness in your life disappears.
This will often take a bit of work on our part at times.
During the various lockdowns or hesitancy of decision-making, some have to work very hard to deal with murkiness of depression, hopeless and anxiety. Hope is sometimes difficult to grasp. We can so easily slide into a sense of helplessness.

In such circumstances, pondering on Helen Keller’s words and looking at the cygnets reflecting light can be an encouragement.
Whenever we are ‘down’ and floundering this image and verse ask us to think of Light and how it is presented in the Gospel. Contrasting dark and light in John’s Gospel, for example, is a big theme which shines light in the overcoming of darkness by and in Jesus who is presented as pure Light.

It may be, however, that we are so overshadowed by darkness in our lives that religion isn’t hitting the spot right now.
So why not try this:

Move away from the negatives in your life and think of the ‘good’ times.
look around your home at the familiar, much loved, things and think of what is behind them – given by whom, bought for some reason, reminders of people who were good to you.?
Play your favourite music, uplifting and sometimes saddening. It was a persecuted priest, Gonville ffrench-Beytagh who said that whenever depression overtook him, he played music which took him deeper into his darkness because only so could he rise up out of it. You are not often helped by well-meaning friends telling you to snap out of it or get over it! (or even worse, as someone once told me, don’t be so self absorbed)

Another use of music at such times is to sing! I like to do this (for the sake of others, in the shower). I may not know all the words but I can hum the tune. It has an amazing effect of lifting the soul.
The beauty of Nature never fails, especially at this time of year, though every season has its artistic template.
A walk in the countryside or around a garden can bring new Light to your life. (Wander round, sipping a cup of tea or coffee)
Even if it isn’t possible to do that, your mind has been taking photos of favourite places and events which are joyful all your life. Click the button of your imagination and sit quietly enjoying the view!

There are so many simple ways to push the shadows behind you and let the sun in.
Those who can turn to Jesus and become focussed on him will learn something really important: He will deal with the shadows so that you can get on with bathing in the Light.

[Mr. G. With thanks to Joyce, as ever, for the Inspiration]

Artin – the long short journey

Artin Iran Nezhad
Photo from The Guardian | Bruno Libbrecht/Allemaal Mensen/via Reuters

For Artin
a prose poem

Born in poverty
but to much love,
your country did not want you.
Kurds not welcome’ was the sign
in the window of your life.

Your family took the long, nomadic way
travelled by millions in the Indo-European migration,
that highway of common humanity.
All you sought was a home where life could blossom
and safety enfold.

So you came to Calais –
gateway to promise, rarely fulfilled.
Fifteen short months of life prepared you so little
for what was destined to be the end of life’s journey.

Rasul and Shiva, lovers, dreamers,
protectors of your life, hoped against hope
led on by dark promises, empty blackened hearts,
quick fixes taking all they had.
A terrible night of boiling sea led the flimsy coracle
into violent water.  Ahead,
a country that would not welcome you.
Would not want to know you
or see your humanity crying out to theirs.
It never had the chance to reject you, though it would have
– the country where new tanks that do not work come
before people.

In that sea you clung to life,
remembering perhaps your joy in the camp when,
befriended by one who cared, you played and splashed
in the water fountain.  Water which lightened your life.
Now no longer fun –
the instrument of death.

No one cared.  None mourned.  Those who loved you
poured out their dreams, their hopes, and visions
into the icy destructive sea.
You were not found as they were.

Till now –  
washed up in another country that did not know you.
Yet one where they cared enough to return you to what was left
of your people. 
They saw in that waterlogged body you, Artin,
for what you have always been.   A child.
A child of God.

You are ‘home now’.
 All that your parents wished and longed for you
is yours and much, much more.
A bigger, more generous, more loving family
hold you now.
Your short, long journey is over.

In God, in Allah, in Jesus Christ you are watched over
as you play and laugh.

And we, who did not know you?
Humanity, no longer living in common love?

We are diminished.

Geoffrey Connor
9 June 2021

Artin Iran Nezhad, a 15 month old Kurdish Iranian refugee drowned with his parents Rasul and Shiva and Anita and Amin, his sister and brother when the smuggler’s boat they were crossing the English Channel in capsized on 27 October 2020.  His body washed up in Norway on 1 January 2021, but it took the Norwegian authorities 5 months to identify him. 
This is for him and for all refugees wandering the world simply seeking safety and a chance in life.

Photo | The Guardian

Lord, we place before you Artin’s story:
a story of dashed hopes and lives cut short.
We pray for him and for his family
and for those who mourn them.

And we hold up to you those seeking refuge throughout the world.
People fleeing danger, oppression and a denial of their humanity.
People looking for safety and freedom for their families.
People treated as less than human, trafficked, swindled.

Help us to recognise our shared humanity,
our shared desires for refuge, home and opportunities.

And help those in authority with power to make a change
to have the vision and generosity of spirit
to stop this needless waste of life.

In Jesus’ name we pray.
Amen.

King of Flowers ?

Photo: Gill Henwood

King of Flowers for Corpus Christi.

My friend Gill wanted to give you a flower for Corpus Christi.

This is the day many Christians give thanks for the gift of the Blessed Sacrament which Jesus gave to His followers at the Last Supper on Maundy Thursday. In the Bread and Wine, prayed over and blessed, Jesus found an eternal way of being with us and feeding us on our spiritual journey to the heart of God’s Kingdom.

This gift is linked to Jesus’s Crucifixion and Resurrection when God showed us how much he loves us.

The colour of the Tree Peony can be seen as a symbol of both the Body of Jesus broken for us and the Blood shed for us. The White is tinged with Red. (And therefore, the white and red symbolize the bread and wine of the Eucharist.)

Not everyone may share that but you can, of course just simply enjoy the flower, which is very beautiful and enjoy it as a visual gift. After all, we need lots of colour and joy in our world right now. We can all share the delights of Creation.

Here’s what Gill has to say about the Peony.

Opening just in time for Corpus Christi, this tree peony (paeonia x suffruticosa) is, to me, astonishingly beautiful.

The white petals are like fine tissue paper, the markings stunning and the crown of stamens around the central pistils glorious. It reminds me of the Passion flower although there are six, not seven pistils and I think the number may vary. Bred over millennia in China, they are highly regarded as the ‘king of flowers’ and were their national flower till 1929.

Each 4-5” flower lasts for about a week and closes up at night, sheltering the centre. This year, the tree peony survived weeks of hard frosts and is in full glory in the hot sun of the last few days. 

The king of flowers for Corpus Christi.

[Mr G]

A glimpse of a moment of ‘Gift’

Gill Henwood. Photo of Green Hairstreak Butterfly. Cumbria.

My friend Gill Henwood has sent me this photo of a Green Hairstreak Butterfly. It was discovered on a track in cleared woodland fells between Coniston and Hawkshead in the Lake District last Saturday. In that part of the world it is a very rare find, Gill tells me.

Of the butterfly itself she says:

that it  is about 30mm wingspan, so half that when the wings are closed. Hence the impressionist close up photo with an iPhone 12 mini. This is adequate for reporting to Butterfly Conservation Cumbria or iRecord, and carrying a smart phone whilst dog walking means the opportunity can be captured- sometimes- if a tiny creature pauses long enough ( they often don’t!).

Amazing striped antennae and legs that were not visible with the naked eye. The ring-tailed lemur of butterflies!

In many cultures, the butterfly has a deep connection with souls.  For some, the butterfly’s spiritual meaning resonates with the Christian belief of Ascension (of Christ) and also to creativity, pulsating joy, transformation and spiritual re-birth or growth.
It is also a sign of beauty and a symbol of hope and endurance as it flies from flower to flower. Butterflies bring joy to a garden, a country path and, even round here at present to a building site a dusting of colour.

Gill says that what she is presenting us with in her image is not so much a portrait but

“a  glimpse of a moment of ‘gift’ in a sighting along the way. “. It’s an opportunity to share the exhilaration of the moment with those who can’t be up on the Cumbrian fells.”

In this period of time when so much has been taken from us and when we don’t yet understand what the ‘new normal’ is; when what we saw as important in our lives is being challenged and questioned, we need these moments of ‘gift.’ Nature has been working hard this year to show us something of ‘their world’.

David Hockney’s new book, written in collaboration with Martin Gayford, Spring cannot be cancelled’, tries to share that sense  of learning deeply from the things around us, particularly the things of Nature and creation.

It is perhaps ironic that at a time when we are threatening so much of creation with extinction, birds, animals, bees, butterflies and the creativity of plants are coming to our rescue. ‘Cheer up!’ they seem to say. ‘There is so much of value that you are missing and which you didn’t see as Important.”

Now perhaps we may, which is why we must always be on the lookout for those moments of gift to be enjoyed and through which we might  glimpse a different, better and more truthful life. A life of wonder, awe and inspiration. A life of breathtaking beauty and yet, a simpler life.

God gives us these glimpses of beauty, of the gift of His creative love.
As Gill suggests. “Enjoy the gift of the glimpse xx”

I am grateful for some words of St. John of the Cross who wrote which carry a profound truth…

God passes through the thicket of the world, and wherever His glance falls He turns all things to beauty.

He can even do it to us!

[Mr G and Gill]