Friday, 27 September 2013

A Child Called Hope

My previous post mentions hope: hope from situations that act as a reminder that there is another way and hope form inspiring people who make you believe you can be part of the change. It seemed logical to follow it (even if it took a few days to get round to it) with my final Taize poem from the summer, which is also about Hope.

“May the God of Hope fill you with all joy and peace in your faith, so that in the power of the Holy Spirit you may be rich in Hope” 
Romans 15:13

One of the workshops in Taize this summer was on the theme of hope. It was very good. I probably should have taken notes, because now I can't remember a huge amount of what was said: just odd phrases and snapshots, and the fact that it was very good. There was a brief mention of a French poem in which Hope makes a guest appearance as a little girl. I haven't read the poem, so I can hardly say this one is inspired by that one, but I liked the idea, and this is the result.

With wide eyes filled with wonder
She gazes out upon the world
And her sparkling eyes are smiling
At the beauty of possibility
In which dreams can all come true

Not tied by cares and expectations
Or the suspicions of the worldly-wise
Drawn upwards to the unending sky
Where clouds of gloom now gather
She sees only the rainbow that shines

While upheld hands gently scatter
Petals of joy which flutter and swirl
Floating down to steadily cover
The grey earth in multi-colours
On a road known by the name of love

As tiny feet urge onwards
Tugging at fearful, resistant hearts
Setting out on an unknown path
She skips towards a longed-for future
Of peace and light and life

Peering out from a forgotten corner
She stands and smiles and waits
Still dancing beneath the raindrops
To a melody that is all her own
Is the tenacious child called Hope.

And suddenly
Something else seems possible
And the world
smiles again

Maybe sometimes hope doesn't come from creative situations or inspiring people; maybe sometimes it comes from God: and maybe, in those moments, God is a little girl sprinkling petals on our path or tugging us by the hand to go towards beautiful places that are just a tiny, little bit scary ...

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Holding on to the hope

Over recent months many of you will know about two things which have happened: one, I have moved into a new Christian Community; two, I have become increasingly politically active and engaged in campaigning.

I am planning to write a separate post about these early days of life in the Carrs Lane Lived Community, but ultimately, I don't think the two are unrelated.

"United with Christ we know that struggle and contemplation have one and the same source: if we pray it is because of love; if we struggle to restore humanity to those mistreated, that too is because of love." 
(Br. Roger of Taize)

The trouble is, every campaign I come into contact with inspires me to find out more about others. Every person I meet who is passionate about peace and justice and the environment and humanity, opens my eyes to other worthwhile concerns. In a complex, intermeshed web of overlapping and interrelated issues and concerns; there is, put simply, too much to do. Too much that I really believe needs to change.

I cannot do all that I would like to do to make the world a better place. And at times, that is discouraging.

Which is why it is important to stay engaged with others who are passionate too: to stand with others in the park in Belfast in the rain even when the G8 leaders probably aren't really listening; to stand outside the ExCeL centre with others (also in the rain, it's a recurring theme!), even though the arms dealers are buying and selling regardless inside.

Which is why I need to be inspired by those that are doing way more than I am, and reminded by those that are doing less, that every little bit counts; every act of non-violent resistance, every letter sent, every conversation had, every banner held high, every Facebook status, every tweet. Every seed planted to grow a better, fairer world.

Most recently, last week, I headed down to London, twice, to campaign against the DSEi, one of the world's biggest arms fairs. We didn't stop the arms fair. Truth be told, I don't think we'll have even made them think twice, sadly, about coming back in two years time. But maybe as a result of a word, a song, an image, an action someone, somewhere, will have had a change of heart. And I know of at least one person who has come away inspired to keep campaigning for the possibility of peace.

(A few photos from last week ... I was only a very, very tiny part of what went on, so you'll have to look very carefully if you want to spot me!)

Because I want to be a pacifist, I really do. I believe it is the only possible response to the non-violent Jesus of the Gospels. But it is very hard. Whoever thought the pacifists and conscientious objectors were cowards was having a laugh. I am not sure I have the strength to be a pacifist; not yet. To face every action of hate with one of loving non-violent resistance. But I am working on it. And working on it means living with the hope of possibility. I am going to keep in touch with those who inspire me. I am going to keep writing letters.

See you on September 29th? (

Thursday, 5 September 2013

A voice speaks peace

Back to the Taize poetry ...

As always, our three weeks in Taize this summer was filled with lots of wonderful encounters with loads of different people. Taize strikes me as a place where you get to meet "real people": not because the people are necessarily any different to those you meet elsewhere, but because we encounter one another as we really are. Taize is a safe space where we allow ourselves to experience the vulnerability that comes from removing our masks and asking others to see the "real" me. This is no accident, it is one of the outward expressions of the experience of the unconditional love of God through a routine of prayer and silence.

It is this that makes for the rich and meaningful encounters in Taize. It is this that makes for lasting friendships and the tears of Sunday morning departures. This poem is mainly inspired by an encounter with one particular person I met this summer, but I think it speaks of more than just their story.

A Voice Speaks Peace

A dark and lonely suffering
Cuts deep
And scars the heart
And bleeding flesh
The blessed relief
Of searing pain
The only way
To feel

Another voice speaks
In sharing
And in silence
And the soul can sing

As scars still tell
The hidden stories
Of a hurting no-one sees
And a pain which will not heal

But while
The darkness does not shrink
A shard of light
Through coloured glass
And hope
And the soul can sing

Monday, 2 September 2013

A place on the edge

Last weekend, undeterred by the mud bath of the previous year we set off to Cheltenham for the Greenbelt Festival. I don't really know where the name came from or the thinking behind it, and maybe that doesn't really matter: because I think I know what it meant to me: the greenbelt: the place on the edge where life abounds.

It was a chance to catch up with lots of friends, to listen to inspiring speakers who refuse to be bowed by the ills of the world, to be surrounded by people who care, who are engaged, who want to make a difference, who believe that they can.

It was a chance to share stories and drama, poetry and music, laughter and tears, faith and frivolity.

It was a chance to sing "Hark the Herald" in a sweltering tent on an August afternoon.

It was a chance to hear the immortal line "In Switzerland, doing covers of Cliff Richard is cool."

I left Greenbelt feeling supported and loved, excited and energised, inspired and challenged. I left believing another way is possible and I can be part of it and make a difference. I am sure my local MP is delighted ...

Of course, I don't want to stay long-term in a make shift campsite on Cheltenham racecourse; but you know, I think I like the idea of staying in the Greenbelt: in the place on the edge, where life abounds.