The heaven espy…

“[One] that looks on glass, on it may stay [their] eye; or if [they] pleaseth, through it pass, and then the heaven espy.”

George Herbert

Book Club

The escapism of reading…

Today was Book Club, which I love! I have always enjoyed reading, and I regularly get lost in a book. I’m really struck by how difficult it is at the moment to concentrate long enough to actually pick up the thread of a book – both fiction and non-fiction!

Reading poetry has been a little easier, but I’m wondering whether anyone has any short-story recommendations? #booksofhope

The Encounter

DSC_0038.jpg

Above the beauty and bustle of the valley
An expanse of heather filled space awaited.
The beautifully radiant blue sky was fresh,
Fragrant with the scent of the morning.
A light wind wound its way towards me –
It caressed my face urging me ahead.
Every step gave way to astonishing awe,
Wonderment grew within…my heart raced;
A mixture of excitement and delight
At all that my eyes were able to take in.

From the edge I heard only the wind.
Stronger now it whistled around my being
Awakening, sharpening my senses.
A man standing some way to my left,
His gaze undoubtedly directed at me,
Drew my attention momentarily. I looked
In that way which we often try to look,
Without looking like we are looking.
His was staring intently, still unmoved,
Yet I walked towards him…as if being drawn.

Close enough to speak, uttering silently,
His eyes remained thoughtfully on mine.
Reading me, delving right into my core,
Like one would an old abandoned book
Beginning to read on the page it fell open at –
It’s like he knows me…like I know him,
Even though I have never seen him before?
He had familiarity in his beautiful radiance,
His face attracted attention, necessitated it –
Its depth of wisdom brought a perfect peace.

His eyes were infinite dark ink pools with
Potential and understanding illuminating.
Pure kindness and laughter lines surrounded,
Softened, magnitude emanating, without threat.
His smooth olive skin blushed by the wind
Was accented by a beard outlining his jawline.
Wavy almost black hair blown about his face
Failed to distract from his present occupation: me!
An unusual encounter avoidable with a sharp turn –
Why, oh why, would I even contemplate that?

Unable to move, unaware of life around me,
Why do I not want this moment to end…ever?
It’s like I have been noticed, no not noticed…
Not merely seen for a spilt second!
Truly encountered and profoundly known.
Such knowing continues as I remain unable,
No unwilling, to move. Silent for if I dare
This moment will be gone, over, lost….
Oh that for once bringing ruin would fail me,
That clumsiness in word and deed would absent.

There is something about this moment
Which tells me none of that matters.
It is insignificantly significant in that
It is relevant because it is about who I am
But it is also irrelevant. It does not change now.
It will not stop it or move it in a direction
Other than the one already intended, and yet
It happens due to the insignificantly significant;
Because of who I am utterly and completely.
So many feelings washing over me right now….

I am known from the deepest part of me
Right to the crumb of toast which has rested
In the corner of my mouth since breakfast!
Every single memory is part of that knowing
Those I love and those I would care to forget
Even those that I have sought to push out –
Guilt and shame can overpower and overwhelm –
But they are there also and they are known.
That is undoubtedly good, perfect and right.
Fear, insignificance and inferiority melt away….

I am liberated floating over the artistry of the valley,
Then quite suddenly, with the blinking of an eye,
His or mine…this moment passes. Freedom
Begins to fade, fear and insignificance pervade.
Perhaps slightly less consuming…the man
Has moved. I turn around slowly yet he is nowhere.
Nowhere amongst the vast expanse of heather.
Did he disappear, was he ever here? My heart knows
He was and is and ever shall be…transformed
I yearn for this again as I realise that this is prayer.

Discomfort

This has been a week of discomfort in various ways for me and others in parish at times. Last Saturday our churches clubbed together with the local social club to put on a Community Fun Day. It was really well attended, and in many ways a success, but it really took a number of people out of their comfort zones as it was held at the social club – a place most parishioners had never entered before – rather than at church. It is so important though for us as Christians to go out into the world and look for what God is already doing, and find out how we can join in! There was face-painting, a bouncy castle and other activities for children: children really help to build bridges between people who may struggle to see what they have in common and feel uncomfortable with one another!

CSC_0113

In the evening we had music from a local Blues Band, and whilst it was not something that the regulars were used to, it was wonderful to see how music began to bring people together in appreciation and conversation – truly amazing! It even took the regulars out of their comfort zone as they listened to “Singing Vicars!”

CSC_0129

Bank Holiday was an opportunity for a day out with my camera to Belvoir Castle. It was a lovely day and there were a number of great photography opportunities, but as I tried to get a photo of a butterfly I was struck by my own discomfort as I held my breath to get as close as possible so as not to scare the butterfly, but also their discomfort as something huge got closer and closer…I haven’t really thought before how wildlife being photographed might make sense of the experience!

CSC_0092

Despite the joys of a bonus Bank Holiday, my days have been busy and it has been past 3 o’clock on more than one occasion before I realised I had not eaten lunch or had anything to drink since the morning. Failing to take care of our basic needs can bring its own sense of discomfort.

CSC_0158

It was my birthday this week, which was lovely, but which is also something I prefer to spend fairly quietly as I do not like the attention it can bring. All the same sharing a birthday cake is something I love!

DSC_0161

Real discomfort came on the evening of my birthday when I tried out a birthday gift – a coffee grinder! I was so excited by it that I even read the instructions so as not to get anything wrong. True to form though, I missed the crucial instruction which said not to overfill the coffee grinder and tipped a whole packet of beans in. This meant that some of the beans got jammed by the weight and the grinder was unable to turn…it then overheated. The discomfort which comes when you have potentially ruined a gift given to you is indescribable! Fortunately when it had cooled down the next day and I followed all of the instructions, all was well.

CSC_0174

Towards the end of the week I went to visit someone I had met in parish whilst walking. As I knocked on their door I had no idea what to expect, and was a little nervous. I remain even more uncomfortable about not managing to see this person as there was no answer….

CSC_0512

Perhaps the greatest feeling of discomfort came at Leicester Pride where clergy and members of some of the churches in the diocese gathered together to be a Christian presence at Pride. These two aspects of my identity do not always sit well in either Christian communities or LGBT communities. The discomfort of ‘coming out’ as the other in either setting is something I have been thinking about as I wrote The WardrobeIt was a real privilege to offer reassurances to people who had been so hurt by people of faith because of who they were, how they had been made and created and who they fell in love with. There is still much work to be done in this vein as ILGA details much better than I could. Even so, stepping out and making yourself uncomfortable every now and again to meet the other can be such a valuable step towards each of us better understanding our fellow human beings – all of whom are created in the perfect and beautiful image of God.

 

Leadership as poetry

#563 I’ve been thinking about #leadership…how might you illustrate good leadership? Might it look like #poetry, where the poet is #guided by, and writes from, something so #deep within, they may not fully know the true potential until they arrive it? Just as the #interplay between #words is key in poetry, is the cooperation between team members key in leadership, or is a leader always successful regardless of the dynamics of the team?

DSC_0046.JPG

The Faceless Woman

Saturday afternoon. Miserably bleak.
Incomplete mundane tasks creep upon me;
fuel gauge beeps, warning lights flash.
Fuel station! Reluctantly I pull in.
Frustration looms and I wait,
as she stops me in my tracks.

I fail to see this faceless woman in my hotheadedness.
At least I don’t really see her and her need;
the pain and upset which she bears are also invisible.
Do I even want to see such brokenness?
Much easier to ignore, or rather simply not address.
Yet, as if prompted, I get out of the car
to draw closer to the bereavement of which we never speak.

Her agitation is plain. That I see.
Yet I don’t see, she is faceless to me.
‘It won’t work,’ cries her despair.
Indeed something is wrong, it needs fixing…
‘no…I must go to London,’
she whispers. What a nightmare.

Finished I bid ‘take care and drive safely.’
And then I see her, this faceless woman;
old, frail, weary and distressed.
Embodiment of human brokenness,
and yet beautiful in her
vulnerability, exposed.

For this faceless woman, her unnamed grief, I feel compassion
as never before – it brings me to my knees.
Evident in my eyes, she seeks to claim it for her own;
she flings her arms around me and we embrace.
This moment, like a sacrament, shows us God’s unending grace.
On release, we look at each other anew
God’s love brims over for the other, we turn and leave transformed.

Humility

#443 This week I’ve been working on a #resource for #contemplativeprayer. I’ve also been incredibly humbled by events of the last few days. This #poem came out of those two aspects of my week:

#Humility
Oblivion is easy, simple, peaceful even;
But is it real, everlasting peace?
That which flows from God,
The source of all-being and light.
Oblivion is easy, yet life without thee…
Well that is nothing.

Prayer is comfort, relationship, stillness;
Also on occasion arid, lacking.
That which flows from God,
Is never in want, only we fall short.
Humility, not pride, opens our eyes…
To the God of grace and peace.