Beauty is….

So far, summer has not afforded me as much opportunity to get out and get lost in photography as I would like. That said, I have recently been thinking through what beauty is…what it really is, not what we see it as from so many areas of society which wish to control what we want and how we look.

A few months ago I spent a week in Portugal and had the privilege of getting lost behind my camera, which was so refreshing. As well as the obligatory holiday snaps though, I wanted to capture a different view of beauty…

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This was the view from our hotel room…I found it bizarre that each day these were the items which were hung to dry, and yet I saw something of beauty in the simplicity of this display.

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We met a couple who were making their living through this art; one would paint the rocks the other would arrange them. Their messages were simple. For me the beauty was in the way they were seeking to challenge and their understated way of offering this to the world.

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I had never been so close up to even one peacock, let alone whole families of them. Here the beauty was in what had not been previously seen, as well as in their inquisitive charm!

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We had not been aware that it was PRIDE on our first day in Lisbon. Watching the parade come through the city was incredibly moving though. Again the beauty was in the simple sentiments, such as ‘Love has no limits’.

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Beauty as attraction! In the square bubbles were being blown and flying off in all directions due to the wind. It was so simple, and yet fascinating to watch them, wondering how long they would last, where they would land, when they would burst.

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Beauty in the simple solutions, in that which is old, or distorted by rust, beauty in that which many would not notice, or is the beauty in the blue backdrop?

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Beauty in the warmth of the evening, beauty in the sunset glow.

Whilst I am not sure I managed to capture a different view of beauty, I see this as the beginning of a conversation, which I invite you to join in with. A conversation where we capture beauty in all of its awe and wonder, beauty as breath-taking because of its freshness, not as perfection but rather as imperfection, beauty as that which is not known, beauty as something which allows us to glimpse the Divine in the everyday.

Please share your images of this kind of beauty in the comments section to enable us collectively to rewrite the meaning of beauty, so that our sons and daughters, nieces and nephews and grandchildren can grow up being released and liberated by its definition, rather than constrained or imprisoned by it, afraid to go out, to wear what they really like, or to be truly and wonderfully who they are!

The Bread of Love

Bread and jam or daily bread? 
Bread winner or maker? 
Bread of life or of love? 
Bread with raise or 
that which draws gaze? 
Bread of diversity: 
naan, chapattis, pita, 
flat bread, baguette, 
garlic bread and pizza….
It is kneaded – it grows, 
it feeds, it permeates
The bread of love

The body of Christ
broken for you
to preserve body and soul

Bread draws the world
in a never-ending meal.
Never just for bread, 
but something more real!
People gather near bread,
bread of life, of heaven – 
bread of love!
Manna given by God 
nourishes heart and soul
in the house of God,
not where we gaze at God,
but where God gazes on us!

The body of Christ
broken for you
for everlasting life

Bread because Jesus said
this is my body…
and so the ritual began.
Like the Emmaus journey;
disciples full of lament
met the risen Jesus
in broken bread.
It was the way he did it:
he took it, blessed it, broke it
and gave it to them…
the bread of love revealed!

The body of Christ
broken for you
to eat and remember

“Our hearts burned within!”
This bread of love,
more than bread,
more than being fed.
A nourishment stretching
to all of your being….
Take-bless-break-give
Jesus’ ‘real presence’
God-with-us now
in the gaze of the
self-giving Jesus
in the bread of love.

The body of Christ
broken for you
feed your heart with thanksgiving

It feels like acceptance,
true appreciation
of things said or done –
like a warm glow
but so much more!
Why then keep it,
or build barriers
around God’s table?
Protect the bread of love!
LGBT, disabled, disfigured,
marginalised people –
Step away from the bread!

The body of Christ
broken for you
that you may have faith

No – this banquet is holy,
utter inclusivity a necessity,
Jesus, offered for all!
This bread of love
transforms with a taste;
a meeting of souls.
As Meister Eckhart said,
‘your eyes which see God
are the same eyes through
which God first saw you.’
Great is the bread of love,
the mystery of faith!

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Life and death…death and life

I’ve been thinking a lot about the way death is held and handled in the natural world, how different that may be to our various societal approaches to death, and possible reasons for this.

It seems that life can flow through aspects of the natural world that have died and are decaying.

New light can shine through, giving new perspectives.

Unexpected growth can come, which may or may not prove useful as an end, but can be a process which brings a different kind of beauty.

A form of protection can also be found to enable a nourishing and healing end for the surrounding community.

Sometimes, rather than an end, there is potential and the possibility of a beginning. Before this possibility is realised there is a period of rest and recuperation.

That rest occurs in community; it’s each taking care of one another’s needs…

…until finally there are the first signs of new life, growth, a new season.

With news stories such as this Triple Death Crash or reports of 11 US School shootings this year, it is little wonder that we often struggle to see death as a positive part of life. Equally losing a long loved relative can feel like just as much of a tragedy to those who grieve as the stories which make up our headlines. How often do we stand in solidarity through these times, not only in the weeks following but, in the months and even years that those left behind seek to adjust to a different way of life…a life without. I was astounded to find that for a major bereavement work places generally give three days of compassionate leave, and that is it. There are many front facing professions where this is just not enough for a person to recover to a state of being able to function. Equally after a few short weeks, no more than months, you are expected to be back to normal and yet this season of grieving can last well beyond expected time frames. Do we expect too much of ourselves, of one another? Do we allow safe spaces to voice our pain, our loss and our grief? How can we do this better?

The Shinkansen Travellers

Traveller life forces on ahead at the speed of light.
The shinkansen practically flying along bullet speed lines.
Moments have passed,
“Mamonaku! Tsugi ha…”
“Attention please! Our next stop is…”

There is barely any attention for the present, the here and now!
And yet already travellers have reached Tokyo.
“Tokyo ha shuuten desu”
“This is the last stop this train will make”

Lives once lived and now gone.
And for what – achievements, marks made?
What remains in these once occupied seats?
They lie in wait for the next travellers.
Lost property is moved on to join a throng of impressions.
Allusions to travellers emeriti lie amongst unaffected effects.
Just occasionally one such suggestion is left behind.
A find which causes future travellers to ponder.
“What went before?”
“Or more aptly who?”

Such intrigue is unusual on this otherwise silent journey.
Travellers are lulled by the steady rhythm of the shinkansen.
“Mamonaku! Tsugi ha…”
“Attention please! Our next stop is…”

Could such curiosity be imagined?
Or does such an object point to hope for this journey?
Perhaps the unknown destination is not to be feared.
Yet all travellers can do is remain;
reading their newspapers on the train,
littered with everything and nothing, perceived yet rarely known….
“Mamonaku! Tsugi ha…”
“Attention please! Our next stop is…”

Max

#520 This is Max for #day4 of Happy Animal Life. The goal is to post a picture of your pet once a day for 5 days. Your post demonstrates that you take a stand against #animalabuse. Pets share their lives with us for a time and all too quickly they are gone – make the most of each moment!Nominate two people a day to continue with this.
Today I nominate Simon Whittaker and Ali Tuckley

Wheel of life

#459 The #buddhist symbol of a #wheel reminds us that life goes on and there is nothing new…I find that idea both comforting and depressing. My #prayer is that we all bring something #unique and #new to God’s awesome creation. 

Feel the joy

#424 When did you last feel the #joy of #life #love #friendship #family and #work? #getthejoyback #otherwisewhatisthepoint 

Gaining perspective


#315 #life can sometimes feel a bit like a wheel…like you’re going round and round, finishing one task only to complete the next one. When something happens to take you off the #wheel or out of the cycle, it is often quite a shock at first, but such events can also be blessings as they re-centre us. A good few years ago I had quite a serious bicycle accident and whilst it was difficult to get to grips with, I gained a #perspective on life which I had not previously had. I realised what was important, what I needed to be putting my energies into and began to see what had been draining me. An unfortunate event ended up being life-changing in a very positive way. That #reassessment needs to happen regularly, and become a discipline as I so often forget that perspective!

#believe

#290 What do you #believe about life? Your place in the world? God or a divine figure? Suffering? These are huge questions, and yet I’m not sure how much I really thought about these things before teaching Religious Education. The students I taught claimed not to think about these things too much either, and yet they had #firmlyheld ideas almost straight away. What surprises me is that when I look back on the last ten years, so many of my beliefs have changed and adapted with my experiences…my views and #theology have changed significantly, the more I have thought about these #ultimatequestions How much do you think about them?

Zola

#192 This is Zola…a new friend! She is just adorable. As I held her and got to know her a little more I was struck by #life. We are all #alive but what is the essence of that life? Zola’s chest expanded and contracted as she took tiny breaths, just like any animal…is breathing the #essenceoflife? Or is it something much more complex? Thanks @divvy_livi for your inspiration with Zola! (at Ripon College Cuddesdon)