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.

God to enfold me.001


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).


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 


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).


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

christmas barbed and barbarous 1000px.jpg
“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.

What Does the Promise of the Kingdom of God Look LIke – reflections from Dave Perry

A couple of weeks ago after i announced the series The Kingdom is Here: What Does it Look Like? Dave Perry posted this response entitled What Does the Promise of God’s Kingdom Look Like. Dave blogs at visual theology and provides some of the most powerful theological reflections on visual images from everyday life that i have seen.

Soon afterwards he went on through cities and villages, proclaiming and bringing the good news of the kingdom of God. (Luke 8:1)

As a minister of religion I have been proclaiming the good news for nearly twenty one years. During this time comments have varied from “seldom have I been so bored” to “that was wonderful”. I have transitioned from a full text sermon on a biblical text to a no-text series of well prepared but extempore reflections on images, flowing out of the lectionary texts, pretty much like the posts on this blog. Nowadays doing interactive visual theology with congregations is my preferred method of working in worship; being marooned in a pulpit delivering a sermon is not. But without the dimension of bringing the good news to life in my everyday ministry such proclamation is a half-hearted gospel. Liberation entails both action and reflection; hearing about it is one thing, experiencing its reality is quite another. Jesus brought both together seamlessly.

But on reflection it is not so much the proclaiming bit which vexes our churches today as actually bringing the good news alive within the communities and networks in which we are situated. The question of what the promise of the kingdom of God actually looks like in practice is a sharp one. Why? Because proclaiming and bringing is what Jesus did: in and through his life the good news was declared and grasped afresh, God’s kingdom was embodied and enacted. As it was for him it is for us: proclaim and bring. The proclaiming is the easy bit if all we are considering are our existing acts of worship. We can freshen, re-contextualise and innovate to our hearts content. Yet Jesus proclaimed the good news far beyond the synagogue in such a way that people grasped what it meant for them in their particular and specific life circumstances. Jesus enmeshed the good news of God’s liberating love right into the questions and struggles of those he encountered. People not only glimpsed what such  liberation might mean, they were liberated.

Whilst we proclaim amongst ourselves we are challenged to proclaim beyond ourselves. Whilst we bringthe kingdom of love to life amongst ourselves we are challenged to bring the kingdom of love to life beyond ourselves. What do we expect to see? What images of liberation are at the heart of our proclaiming and bringing? As the always refreshing Christine Sine at Godspace says, “God is at work, God is moving in our world transforming renewing and restoring and we want everyone to know how and where we see that happening…..people today don’t just want to hear about the good news of God they want to see the ways in which it is being lived out authentically in our world today.”

Which is why these photographs jolt me back to reality and refuse to let me off the hook in ministry. The graffiti which covers the doors goes back over thirty years and spans the period in which I have been a Christian. In that short space of time Christianity has gone from being a natural life-choice for those wishing to change the world to a heritage option which betrays a lack of style and edge. God of course has been just as engaged in the suffering, torment and desire of the world as ever. The “I woz here’s” recorded on the steel sheeting portray a deep existential human need for our lives to have meaning – and this hasn’t changed either. It is our ways of seeing as a society which have altered drastically.

locked doors and grafitti in close up

So the good news should not be padlocked up and chained away behind locked doors of stale religious traditions and dismissive postmodern secular distrust. In a poignant symmetry of need both the churches and society require the sacred to be unlocked and seen afresh. It is the task of proclaiming and bringing to make this visible in our time. And the good news is that this looks like Jesus. As we unlock the radical nature of his kingdom bringing life of love in ours and do as he did, the graffiti of the heart will declare God’s presence. God ‘woz ere’, is now and always shall be. Its simply a question of seeing where and how.

Across the Blogosphere

This morning I was wandering the blogosphere after reading my morning email reflecting on faith and everyday life.  To be honest I was feeling a little frustrated.  my inbox was full of memorial day ads telling me I needed to buy more in order to save money.   And even some of my favourite sites seem to have sprouted new and tasteless ads since I last visited them.  I realize that like us, many are struggling with the challenge of keeping their ministries afloat during tough financial times, but do we really need to buy into the ways of mammon in order to survive?

Fortunately there were a few posts I came across this morning that turned my world around… most of them incorporating beautiful visual images or about gardening, both of which always brings refreshment to my soul

Dave Perry at visual theology has some beautiful photo reflections that I would highly recommend.  Like this one (though it is much better with Dave’s photos)

At the foot of the market cross in the Yorkshire dales village of Askrigg a genuine bull ring is set into the cobbles. Dating from the eighteenth century or earlier it is a chilling reminder of public brutality, for here bull’s were tethered and baited by bulldogs to ‘entertain’ the crowd. Something which is unthinkable now was normative then. The bull ring reminds us of how cruel and callous we once were. Yet the politics and judicial system of the time scarcely treated the poor any better than the beasts. Read the entire post

And to help me relax this article from Year of Plenty in Spokane

It has always intuitively made sense to me that spending time out in the garden is good for my health and general well being, especially for reducing stress. Well, it turns out that there may be a scientific basis for such a claim. A recent study on the effects of exposure to a common soil bacteria (mycobacterium vaccae) shows a strong correlation between the bacteria and improved learning and lowered anxiety. read the entire article

Its now time for morning prayers so hopefully I will be able to share more reflections later

Meeting the Twelve Apostles

Tom & I have now arrived in Adelaide, after a long (1000 km) but spectacular 2 day trip along the coast between Melbourne and Adelaide.  I last made this trip with my family when I was 12 years old so as you can imagine there was a great deal of nostalgia and remembering for me.

Things have changed a little since my last visit.  The roads have definitely improved which is a great blessing and there are loads of signs reminding American tourists that in Australia we drive on the left.  Evidently there are horrendous accidents each year because tourists rent cars at Melbourne airport and start their long trek towards Adelaide in jetlagged state along narrow windy roads that can be nerve racking even if you were familiar with them.

falling rock sign

Tom let me do most of the driving because at least I grew up driving on the left and rather enjoy the twisty turny roads But by the end of the day with only 400 km (250 miles) covered and 7 hours of driving even my nerves were a little frayed.

Twelve Apostles

Twelve Apostles

Other things have changed too.  One of the spectacular rocks known as the twelve apostles has crumbled and London Bridge (another rock formation) has fallen down but this is still one of the most spectacular drives imaginable.

We particularly enjoyed our stopover at Port Fairy a small community which is one of the oldest ports along the South coast of Australia.  The old norfolk pines lining the streets beautifully frame the old buildings.  A very memorable stop though it is a shame that what was once such a thriving community is now little more than a tourist stop.

Port fairy buildings & norfolk pines

Port fairy buildings & norfolk pines

My greatest disappointment was the Blue Lake at Mt Gambier which I remember as this brilliant blue colour.  However what I had forgotten was that the colour changes dramatically in a couple of days mid November for no known reason.  So we are a month early and the lake just looked like any other deeper crater lake.

Blue Lake Mt Gambier

Blue Lake Mt Gambier

What surprised me most was the vineyards that have developed all along this road.  We didn’t have time to stop but could have been quite tipsy by the time we made it to Adelaide.

All in all this was a wonderful break in a hectic few weeks.  Lots to reflect on in regard to everyday spirituality too so probably more of that to come over the next few days.  We are now at Tabor College for a week teaching an intensive on the church and the future.  Saturday I also conduct a spiritual retreat on spiritual rhythms.