Thursday 31 December 2009

For the New Year

Nada turbe,

Nada te espante,

todo se pasa,
Dios no se muda;
la paciencia
todo lo alcanza;

quien a Dios tiene
nada le falta:

Sólo Dios basta.

Eleva tu pensamiento,

al cielo sube,

por nada te acongojes,

nada te turbe.
A Jesu Cristo
con pecho grande,y,
venga lo que venga,

nada te espante.

¿Ves la gloria del mundo?

Es gloria vana;

nada tiene de estable,

todo se pasa.
Aspira a lo celeste,

que siempre dura;
fiel y rico en promesas,
Dios no se muda.

Ámala cual merece
bondad inmensa;

pero no hay amor fino
sin la paciencia.
Confianza y fe viva
mantenga el alma,

que quien cree y espera
todo lo alcanza.
Del infierno acosado
aunque se viere,

burlará sus furores
quien a Dios tiene.

Vénganle desamparos,

cruces, desgracias;

siendo Dios tu tesoro

nada te falta.
Id, pues, bienes del mundo;

id dichas vanas;

aunque todo lo pierda,

sólo Dios basta.

Wednesday 30 December 2009

In the beginning

I have had an year of mis-starts and false beginnings. I have been up to my eyes in work and a social whirlwind, but have found it difficult to to concentrate on those things that direct my life: faith, reason, family, friends.

This January I will, like many, begin again. To continue my studies I am about to undertake a teaching job at a public school in Dorset. I will be away from my University term in Oxford, but will try to continue with my studies independently. During that time I hope to make much progress with my work.

But, all this is not the point. In January there is a need to return to the beginning.

It is with this in mind, and with a hint from my childhood friend, Luke, that I will start again, this year, to read the Bible. It is the book that forms the foundation of much of Christian ethics, and, if I dare say so, much of the law of this country and of Europe. There is a lot to learn there: about God, and about life.

The Bible has boring bits. Believe me, I have read them. But, there are lots of interesting bits too, and each part, the boring and the interesting, has something to say that is relevant to the way people live today: religious or non - religious. There was no such thing as a temporal 'Christian state' in the New Testament, nor a 'Jewish state' in the Old. Religious diversity and differences of opinion are part of the story of God in the Judeo Christian Scripture. I imagine that differences of opinion would form part of the discussion of scripture today. Difference is certainly is part of reading it: there are violent parts, injustice, sexism, patriarchalism, wars, debates, differences and dialogues. In it all, God plays a part.

So, I begin to read again. At the beginning. And from the Beginning I hope to see the reasons, the wherefores and the whys of conflicts, disagreements and debates. I do not hope to find answers, but only clearer questions.

Here is the plan: Bible Reading

It begins with the first chapters of Genesis, Ezra, Matthew and Acts.

Tuesday 15 September 2009

Daisies need sunshine and roses need rain

In my head today I have been singing one lyric of a song over and over again: 'Daisies need sunshine and roses need rain.' To me these two flowers show a difference between two types of happiness. Daisies are irrepressible bundles of joy, they are bubbly and delightful symbols of innocence and cheerfulness. Roses, on the other hand are deeply beautiful. Roses are offered as a symbol of love, courage and respect; in Christendom they are a reminder of Christ's passion. Roses, to keep their beauty, need rain; daisies close up and retreat into the ground at the first sign of bad weather. It's tentative I know, but to me there is something here to be learnt about beauty in life. Something to do with an appreciation, if that is the right word, of the hardness of real living.

Today was the feast of Our Lady of Sorrows. It is a beautiful and poignant feast. But, like many things in the Church, it is weird and takes some growing up to get your head around. Without too much thought I have always assumed that to live a happy life good things should happen to you. I like to think about the happy times. When things go a bit awry I pretend it isn't happening, look away and try and think of something else. I have the same reaction to horrid images on the telly. And, to my shame, difficult things that happen closer to my home: beggars on the street, drugs and alcoholism. The feast of Our Lady of Sorrows is a challenge to all of that.

Our Lady of Sorrows is beautiful. But, hers is not a superficial beauty. True beauty comes from experiencing life to its fulness with all its pain and sorrow. True love is the same. Mary at the foot of the cross had, we are to understand, the faith to believe in the resurrection, but she still cried. That wasn't because she had lost all hope, it was because she loved her son. It was love that made her stay and refuse to look away.

Thursday 6 August 2009

Back to Basics

 I have a new allotment. Well, it is a 15f x 25f bed in a communal plot. I am so looking forward to starting to dig and care for the plants again. I feel like it will atone for a lot that did not go right this year. In August I would usually take time away from home to think about my faith and renew my commitment to it. This year however, that has not been possible. I miss it. Having an new patch of earth to care for might just be the path to a cure. It is a bit late in the year for planting, but that does not stop me making plans for proper winter salads. I have been thinking about what will survive its infancy in the autumn and live to give harvest in the cold, dark winter. 'Dominant' spinach is a winner, it will grow fast and harvest through to January, and 'Red Giant' mustard will make for a tangy salad leaf. It is still possible to grow rocket at this time of year, and it is much less likely to be attacked by bugs. Crinkly leafed lettuces are also in the offing, with 'Black Seeded Simpson' being a winner for the greens, and 'Merveille de Quatre Saisons' conquering the reds. I will put down lamb's lettuce to cover some ground. Okay, so it won't win any chef's awards, but you can harvest its leaves in handfuls and add them to almost anything. I have some 'Red Bor' kale to sow to impress the neighbours with its red frills, and help me pretend to be chinese chef genuis (it makes great crispy fried seaweed). With all that under my belt I am hoping I might be well on my path to redemption.

What on earth is the connection between pilgrimage and allotments I hear you ask? Simple, they both root you in your earthly existence at the same time as showing you the majesty of God.

Saturday 27 June 2009


Talking I try to hear what someone says,
understand how they think,
learn their thoughts,
walk in someone else's shoes.

I want to put myself behind me.

I can't.

I fail.

I am disappointed.

Two ears and one mouth,
for a reason. Listen twice as hard as talk.

Learning is my passion, but people are hard to study.
Conversational words aren't set in stone, they slip and change their shape.
You cannot pin them down.
Quickly spoken, easily forgotten.
Said in haste, remembered forever.
Understanding more is loving more.
I need a hug.

Wednesday 25 February 2009

Word as Linguist

What the Word made was whole and stable, till
That snake pushed a theory in another key. Then Eve
Bit deep, starting feminist studies, as she traded dirunal
Garden, preferring post modern longings that branch, and fork
And Twist between Divinity and the Devil's branded
Habitations. After dreaming of Michael Angelo, some
Chose lyres whose strings set consonants in Sistine sepia,
Or follow guttural longings rattling down pulsating throats.

Words adapt: servant, master, hidden imperial will;
Inducting smiles, a frown, a silver lining; double takes
Brimful of Derrida, still busy in the judgment seat.
His tribe constructs each moments brief. They delete,
Like no other, traditions, key texts, purest commonsense;
Cast aside immortal longings; and such truth of generations
That sanctify point and purpose, or insource epic stamina.
This is manifold history, a recurring choice; ever there:

A newly risen Promise, or Babylonian agencies. But

No option for our tribe: Prophesy and Revelation, knowing
Poetry is elemental; its interlinked intimacies remember, read,
And write us. there is the rock cleft memory along a home-
Returning. Forty years and just a glimpse for a man of faith.
With others, imperfection asks word and grammar to rhyme
With thought. Intensify metaphors: they all uncoil the mind,
Burnish spirit: heal split infinities. Summon benedictions:
They rearrange, restore us, for this release, this search.

We feel to see to breathe. Night faces brighten yet again
As breaking light lays the first shafts to kiss each flower.
The falling leaf is equinox, yet without season, narrating
His walk in the Garden. That we cannot share, but share again
Because words are there to tell me so; because I see faces
Who have strolled some graceful evenings in that far place.
They elicit words that signify, that we should cleave unto,
Because they touch; because they tell....far more than words.

Saturday 10 January 2009

Starting again

Ermita de Nuestra Senora de Eunate, donde el peregrino se convierte solo en hombre o mujer...

En la puerta Oeste de acceso al Templo reza un cartel asi:

"Esta piedras fueron puestas para el silencio,
este espacio es para la reflexion,
este lugar es para la oracion.
No solo abra los ojos como un turista,
o todos los sentidos como un peregrino,
abre el corazon como hombre o mujer que busca.
Entra con cuidado y respeto,
entre estes piedras estan recogidos muchos siglos,
muchos silencios,
muchas oraciones."

I am making arrangements to walk the camino de Santiago de Compostela again. Hopefully we will leave on 24th August, intending to start from St. Jean Pied la Port. I am excited already. The camino offers so many opportunities, to be inspired, to think, to be still, to pray, to wonder, to have adventures, to laugh, to be a pilgrim. Every journey is a new journey, a new experience that cannot be predicted. In my enthusiasm for the trip I have been looking around the various websites and I found this photo and poem. The spanish text above roughly translates:

The Hermitage of Our Lady of Eunate, where the pilgrim becomes just a man or a woman...At the west door over the Church there is a prayer card that reads:

"These stones were put here for the silence,
this space is for reflection,
this place is for prayer.
Do not open your eyes as only a tourist,
or your senses like a pilgrim,
open your heart like a man or a woman who searches.
Enter with care and respect,
enter these stones that are recalling many centuries,
many silences,
many prayers."