A Beautiful Celtic Prayer

I posted this on the Light for the Journey Facebook page this morning and thought that some of you might appreciate it too.

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Its All A Matter of Perspective – Learning From the Eagles

Bald eagle, Tsawwassen B.C.

Bald eagle, Tsawwassen B.C.

A few days ago I walked along the beach in Tsawwassen B.C with my friend in Kim Balke. The breathtaking beauty of the mountains, the salty freshness of wind and the barrenness of the trees were all inspiring. In one tree sat 5 bald eagles, majestically surveying the morning scene. Not wanting to disturb the serenity of our walk, I decided to photograph them on the way back.

However as we headed back towards the car, the barren tree in which the eagles perched looked empty. I immediately started making fresh plans to return for a photo shoot.  As we moved closer something remarkable happened however – suddenly the eagles came into view. How they had hidden from view in that barren tree I don’t know, but they had.

How often I wondered do I make new plans because I can’t see what I hope for? How often do I mess up and get ahead of what God is doing because I think I understand? A little like Abraham trying to get a son and not seeing how God could possibly accomplish it. How often is my vision limited because I have not walked far enough along God’s path to see what is there? Impatience, limited understanding, lack of faith, they all distort my perspective and make it hard for me to see life from God’s viewpoint. How often do we all mess up what God is wanting to accomplish in our lives because we don’t trust that God is able to accomplish all that is promised?

Hebrews 11:1 reminds us: Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see. So lets all keep walking today along the path that God spreads out before us. Let’s hold onto God’s promises believing that in the right time and in the right place God’s perspective will burst in upon us and enable us to see.

The True Light Is Coming Into the World – by David Perry

The True Light - photo by David Perry

The True Light - photo by David Perry

This morning’s post is a second contribution from David Perry. The powerful images that he incorporates into this reflection spoke deeply to me as I read through it this morning. It was first posted on his blog as World, Life-space and Enlightenment. Dave is a Methodist Minister in Yorkshire England. He enjoys fell walking, rambling, running, reading, art, photography, model railways, red wine and watching movies on DVD. Dave is married to Sue, who is Deputy Head of Dietetics for the Hull and E. Yorkshire NHS Hospitals Trust. They have two daughters, Bekki (online merchandising designer) and Judy (final year Communication and Media student).

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To Christian eyes the work of Spanish artist Jaume Plensa, on display at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park, provides a wonderful insight into the sheer expectant joy which Advent promises. The shapes of being he crafts deliberately speak into the body and soul of humanity.  This intention is apparent as we look at and through the mesh ‘portraits’ of the two girls Nuria and Irma who live near his home, or in the close-up photographs of one ‘person-space’ in the dual figure work ‘Spiegel’, which is formed from the letters of eight different alphabets.
These remarkable artworks display the contours of our being and becoming; they invite us to see the meanings which define us and which shape our day to day experience of being alive. The interior space of our personhood is revealed and becomes accessible. Light, space and meaning show us who we are, and in the act of understanding we connect with our deepest longings and our darkest fears.

And as we do this in Advent, God’s word in Christ becomes the open life-space of love which enlightens our being, just as the warmly vibrant colours of sunset seem to bring Plensa’s rooftop children into a cherishing focus of pure wonderment. Born from stardust, the light enlightens the truth that our transient lives are suffused by and eternally held within the love-light of God’s presence, the one who is, as we see here, closer to us than our own breathing. The true light gifts this intimate life-giving truth that the love which is at the heart of the universe invites us to inhabit the life-space of grace shaped by love’s meaning.

Word became flesh

Word became flesh - by David Perry

And the joy of Advent arises from God’s enlightening word which became flesh in Christ Jesus, the one who beckons us to enter within the freeing Godspace of humanity which his life defines. Plensa’s ‘Spiegel’ speaks to me of how the word embodied in Jesus uniquely reveals to us the image of an authentically God-shaped life. The gospel alphabet of forgiveness and compassion graces us with the promise that everyone can enter into this precious experience of Christ-likeness and make it their own. Jesus was born into our humanity; Advent promises us that we will be reborn into his divinity, and there become really and truly human in nothing less than the image of God.

As night took hold Spiegel was illuminated from within and began to draw a steady stream of fascinated visitors. Some stood outside and beyond and gazed. Others were more adventurous and entered within the enlightened life-shapes. With the eyes of faith this was such a beautiful sight to behold. All the expectation of Advent is held for me in this one image. Standing within the tangible promise of the word’s beautifully enfolding truth and love, our intangible yearnings are illuminated and transformed by a gift-space we neither expect or deserve.

Living within the Light

Living within the Light - David Perry

Advent As A Mirror of Possibility and Expectation – Dave Perry

This post was provided by David Perry and was first posted on visual theology as Advent As A Mirror of Possibility and Expectation. If you would like a sneak preview of some of the other upcoming posts check out the links on the Advent synchroblog site:

Advent synchroblog link list part 1 

Advent Synchroblog second link list 

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Mirror of possibility and expectation

Mirror of possibility and expectation - photo by Dave Perrry

Anish Kapoor’s Sky Mirror outside the Nottingham Playhouse Theatre offers a strikingly attention-grabbing perspective on what is an otherwise unremarkable and fairly mundane space. It is as though the artist has designed the mirror to take this straightforward reality and imaginatively pour out its essence across the polished surface in a completely alternative representation of the context in which the viewer stands.

This perception-shifting piece of highly polished stainless steel reminds me of the mirror-like qualities of the texts, truths and promises which shape our experience of Advent. These take contexts which appear to be numbingly familiar, dispiritingly hopeless or unchangingly life-sapping and transforms our perception of them on the sparkling surface of possibility and expectation which God inspires within us and amongst us.

Advent challenges us to hold up this mirror of alternative realties and to feel the surge of transformational energy which flows when we see life from God’s perspective. Like the reflection in my image of Anish Kapoor’s sky mirror, the divine viewpoint revealed through Advent is anything but dull or monochromatic; it is colourful, vivid and stunning to behold, full of possibility and expectation. Even in the darkness. Then it is as though the mirrors gathers in all the available light and intensifies it into a freshly meaningful picture of the most brilliant colours and liquid shapes.

In today’s edition of The Guardian the renowned photographer Annie Leibovitz writes of the adventurous expectation which is essential to her creativity as a photographer. Needing to fill herself up again with all that she cared about she set off on a photographic pilgrimage and discovered renewed inspiration and reinvigorated her way of seeing.

In Christian Spirituality Advent serves a similar purpose. We journey to fill ourselves up with all that God cares about, and in so doing find ourselves brought back to the essence of our humanity. Advent is a mirror of possibility and expectation which liberates our seeing and inspires our discipleship afresh.

Through the sheer brilliance of God’s pure primary colours of grace our monochrome world becomes vivid with hope.

Imagining the Lectionary: Psalms and Passion by Dave Perry

Today’s post was provided by Dave Perry and was first published on Visual Theology.  Dave is a Methodist Minister who has been the Chair of the Lincoln and Grimsby District since 2000. He had his first taste of Christianity and Methodism whilst an undergraduate and became a member of the Methodist Church at Selly Oak.  His hobbies include fell walking, rambling, running, reading, art, photography, model railways, red wine and watching movies on DVD. Dave is married to Sue, who is Deputy Head of Dietetics for the Hull and E. Yorkshire NHS Hospitals Trust. They have two daughters, Bekki (online merchandising designer) and Judy (final year Communication and Media student).

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Whichever way we look at it, the final phase of the Lenten journey towards Easter is the supreme test of our mettle as disciples. Do we continue alongside Jesus, or do we gradually fall back and move to the periphery, melting into the crowds of bystanders where we will find anonymity and little to mark us out as ‘different’?

With each passing year Jesus walks an increasingly lonely road through our culture to the events of Holy Week. The palms are fewer, the passion less. Those who dare to follow him closely can no longer take for granted that the bystanders understand what they are doing or appreciate the significance of this pathway to Easter. The increasing strangeness and oddity of the spectacle bear an inverse relationship to the cachet of being a Christian in our society.

There is no celebrity or glamour on offer here. Staying close to Jesus offers no enhancement of our personal status in the eyes of others. But then it is not about us. It never has been. It is about Him. And he eschewed all such self-serving interests for the sake of being utterly God-centred and passionately people-focussed. So the journey he makes goes from acclaim to resentment, and from there to ridicule, ending with the final excruciating good riddance of the Cross. And in his rejection the divine odd-one-out calls his disciples to stay close all the way through.

By abandoning the aggrandising power which the world craves for a life lived in and for the apparent powerlessness of love, Jesus demonstrates a completely subversive understanding of the whole concept of power. And as he does so the full potential of humanity shines within him as a countercultural beacon of hope. The power of such divine love is the energy which brings God’s Kingdom alive in and through those disciples who determinedly stay close to him, come what may.

The Christian Faith may indeed seem strange to those who watch from the sidelines today – and in a sense if it is true to itself it always will – but in love our homecoming, our belonging and our true identity are always to be found. These truths we discover in Jesus. And there is nothing odd or strange about the deep authenticity which comes from knowing one’s whole being is centred upon them, through his presence with us on life’s journey. As we follow him and serve others these life-giving holy truths come alive within us and empower us to fulfilled living in a way that makes sense and gifts meaning to every waking moment.

Jesus needs his disciples to trust that this is more than enough for anyone. It was for him, why shouldn’t it be for us?

Who Says It Always Rains in Seattle – the Sunsets Just Get Better Every Day?

Nothing speaks to me more powerfully of the awe inspiring nature of God than an beautiful sunset.  In the last couple of days we have had the most beautiful sunsets in Seattle and I wanted to share their breathtaking beauty with you.  Notice not just the sun but the amazing cloud formations too.  Enjoy!

Third Monday of Advent – Christmas barbed and Barbarous by Dave Perry

This afternoon’s post comes from Rev Dr David Perry a Methodist Minister who has been the Chair of the Lincoln and Grimsby District since 2000. Dave comes from the Black Country in the West Midlands. After a first degree in Biological Sciences & Geography he became a research palaeoecologist (researching climatic and environmental changes over the last 20,000 years in Britain and Iceland) at Birmingham University. He had his first taste of Christianity and Methodism whilst an undergraduate and became a member of the Methodist Church at Selly Oak.  His hobbies include fell walking, rambling, running, reading, art, photography, model railways, red wine and watching movies on DVD. Dave is married to Sue, who is Deputy Head of Dietetics for the Hull and E. Yorkshire NHS Hospitals Trust. They have two daughters, Bekki (online merchandising designer) and Judy (final year Communication and Media student).  Dave Blogs at Visualtheology

Christmas barbed and barbarous

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“they shall name him Emmanuel, which means, God is with us”   Matthew 1:23

When juxtaposed with an image of barbed wire the definition of the word barbarous is revealing. The vicious purpose of these short spikes of metal is to rip and tear flesh. Such wire is designed to keep out those individuals and groups deemed undesirable or dangerous.

Those who are not like us. Particularly those who are foreign, strange, savage even. All across the globe wire like this separates and defines humanity. It attempts to keep what we know safe and exclude what we fear.

The gospels take wire cutters to such barbed and barbarous thinking. Seen from the wrong side of the wire Christmas is a divine protest movement which breaks into the easy enclaves and comfortable compounds of thought and behaviour which deny others the right to fulness of life. And in Jesus God leads the way, ripping up fences of hatred and distrust and moving right through to the vulnerabilities of the human heart, where love births togetherness and respect.

Christmas is truly shocking. And if the church domesticates the gospel and keeps it safe behind the barbed wire of cautious theology and timid mission, we will eventually discover just how foreign, strange and startling God is, when God cuts through and reaches us in all the raw, savage beauty of love in Jesus.

The loving reality of God with us is barbed and barbarous to undemanding faith and harsh politics alike. The shocking truth revealed by St Matthew tears down barriers and reveals God becoming real in the acute mess and muddle of life gone wrong. In Bethlehem hope for a world without wire is born.

And with bloodied hands and torn flesh Jesus will show us the true cost of such amazing love.