Archive for June, 2009

Rainlight

“Rain.

Smells of childhood

and tastes of walking home

and sounds of squeaky shoes.

Anyway,

here’s a photograph of us

it’s funny but I see…

two old friends life will make of us someday.

How that stirs my heart absurdly

as I write these words

by rainlight”.

From “Rainlight” by Mortal.

P6270049There’s a story told in the ancient world of man who along with his wife and two sons left his native land because of severe famine.  The man died and his two sons married local girls.  Ten years later both sons died, leaving their already widowed mother with only her two daughters-in-law.  Devastated she decided to return to her homeland as the crops there had improved.  The three women set off – the two daughters-in-law journeying to an alien land not of their birth.  On the road, their mother-in-law pleaded for them to return to their natural mothers and to find new husbands and make new lives for themselves in their homeland.  After much pleading and tears, one of the girls returns.  The other, Ruth, says “Your people will be my people and your God will be my God”.

The story is one of pain, of broken hearts, of family ties, of love, of commitment, of provision, of fresh beginnings, of restoration and of people being in the right place at the right time.  The widowed daughter-in-law remarries and both she and her mother-in-law make a new life for themselves together.

One of my best friends got married four years ago.  He had been living down in London for quite a few years and had met a girl who he was seeing.  When they got married, their wedding vows included the line mentioned above, “Your people will be my people and your God will be my God”.  There was something beautiful and meaningful in that.  To be at a marriage ceremony where two thirty-somethings’ wider circle of friends were somehow being brought together into a wider family.

Four years on both they and us are parents – each family now having a daughter.  Rather than having Godparents both of us have asked a broader circle of close friends to support us as couples in parenting and to hold us accountable.  We affectionately talk not of each girl’s “God Parents”, but of their “God Squad”.  So not only are the circles of friends coming together to form rings within rings or links in a chain, but now the next generation are spending time together.  Both our and their daughter share the same middle name.  Our daughter is four years older than theirs and is besotted with theirs. 

Having just holidayed together it is nice to think that there will be many more such happy memories still to form in the years ahead.  This holiday has also been spent with my in-laws.  It was a beautiful thing to watch new friendships develop between our friends and my in-laws – to enjoy eachothers’ company, to chat and day-trip together, to find our own space, to have a laugh together and to share something of our hopes, dreams and fears.  It reminded me of that marriage vow of theirs again – continuing to be realised four years on.

Their daughter is being dedicated today.  We would dearly love to be standing beside them as they make promises in public and a fresh commitment to parenting and to family.  Whilst not physically with them today, we are very much with them in our hearts, thoughts and prayers.

The story I started this post with is not insignificant.  The family tree which involves Ruth forms part of another important genealogy as shown in the gospel of Matthew.  It makes me see afresh, that relationships are not disposable – that blood is thicker than water, that commitment to love and marriage and friendship and family can conquer and overcome the storms of life.  It makes me ponder anew that parenthood is something to be taken seriously and that children are a gift from God.  There is order amongst the seeming chaos.

The photo at the top of this post is of a wonderful picture our friends bought us on our holiday the other week.  It is proudly displayed in our dining area – a reminder of happy times, of favourite places and cherished, hugely loved and dearly missed people.  If only the miles would shrink at times…

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Be Thou My Vision

“Be Thou my vision, O Lord of my heart;
Naught be all else to me, save that Thou art.
Thou my best thought, by day or by night,
Waking or sleeping, Thy presence my light”.

From “Be Thou My Vision” sung in churches throughout the world regularly. 

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I wrote about our first trip to Polzeath in North Cornwall in my previous post and how a place called the Tubestation began to catch our imagination.  Whilst we never actually ventured inside due to building works at the time, we began to find out about the project on-line and via a television programme I posted about last year here.

In their own words here is part of their story:

How it all began…

Polzeath, “The thumping heart of cool Cornwall” (The Times)

The story begins in 2002 in the beachside chapel the Tubestation now calls home.  With ever decreasing use, the building faced the fate of many of the UK’s small chapels: closure and inevitable commercial sale.  But then on Christmas Day 2002 a vision was born, one which continues to unfold today. The vision starts with the rescue of this incredible site and the compulsion to give it anew to the coastal community it once served.

Late in 2006, two surfers were taken on to begin the work making plans, raising interest in the vision and raising funds to support it.  Tubestation opened in the summer of 2007, playing non-stop movies on three screens, with facilities for live music and DJ’s, skateboarding, art and display space, Wi-fi internet with laptops, games, coffee lounge and loads more!

Tubestation is a faith-based non-profit voluntary organisation situated in a refurbished chapel crammed full of great stuff and overlooking the famous Polzeath beach!

As well as the uses listed above, there is space to host a limited number of special events through the year.  With multimedia capabilities, Tubestation is a good space for meetings, presentations, parties, and it also has a marriage licence, making for a spectacular wedding location.  Brilliantly, the building is still used as a church.

Tubestation’s vision is about living life to the full, which includes much more than  just what happens on site.  We seek creative ways to use the fantastic resources and the links we have on both a local and a global level, to benefit people.

So future development of the site will aim to provide facilities for a range of arts and music, plus conference capabilities: and off site the project aims to encourage underprivileged people to access extreme sports; meanwhile our overseas links through charity partners World Vision and Christian Surfers are beginning to look into developing surf amenities to benefit third world coastal communities.

Tubestation runs on a “love your neighbour” attitude.  Its staff will never seek to force their faith on other people, but rather simply try to use their lives as living examples of the relevance of the gospel today…

As a family we have just returned from 10 days in Cornwall.  We hung out at the Tubestation a fair bit and are completely inspired by what we experienced. 

Below is a flavour of the set-up from iPlayer.

Great as the clip is, I almost expected a “cool factor” or barrier to exist and was pleasantly encouraged that I found an authenticity and welcoming comunity of all ages gathered there.  There’s something uplifting about singing “Blessed be Your name, when the sun’s shining down on me, when the world’s all as it should be. Blessed be Your name” when you’re in a place which is so obvioulsy Jesus centred and full of love and when you’re gazing out the windows across blue skies, sandy beaches and know the Atlantic ocean is just around the corner…

Thanks guys and thanks be to God!

Enough Is Enough!

“Open your eyes,

time to wake up.

Enough is enough is enough”

From “Enough Is Enough!” by Chumbawamba.

I recently posted on the stance of the BNP ahead of the recent European elections here.  If you also strongly disagree with all they stand for, then please take a few seconds to sign this online petition produced by Hope Not Hate.

  http://action.hopenothate.org.uk/notinmyname

Thanks.

Sky High

“Soothe me at the yucca’s feet.

Taste the sweet of salt and sand.

Feel the burn, I know you can

Deep, deep, in my mind.

Hear about God’s heavenly spies.

Speak about rolling skies.”

From “Sky High” by The Prayer Chain.

Last September we had a fantastic week’s holiday in Cornwall.  On one of the first evenings we drove to Port Isaac and Polzeath just to get our bearings and check out the beaches.  Polzeath has become somewhere special in our hearts.  There is something awe inspiring about staring at the sea, hearing the sound of the waves breaking, watching the gulls swoop amidst the spray, to watch the thousands of acres of sky…

On returning to the car we saw a cafe perched above us called the Tube Station.  The big cross in the logo caught our attention.  Sadly, we couldn’t go in during our stay as they didn’t seem to be open and various folks seemed busy constructing an outdoor decking area for terraced seating.  That said, the huge banners outside caught our imagination.  Here was something completely fitting for it’s environment, something unashamed and somewhere that sought to feed the body, mind and soul.  Here are last September’s photos:

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To Be Alone With You

I often wonder if our over-familiarity with stories or concepts keeps us from grasping the fullness that they have to offer?  I love when a book, film, song or piece of art makes me see a whole new perspective.

The concept that Jesus was fully human, yet, fully God is a cornerstone of the Christian faith.  I guess I have always understood that to mean that He could identify with the position I find myself in the midst of temptation.  What about feelings of: frustration; weariness; elation; doubt; or a whole host of others? 

We sing lines in church like, “Thank you for the cross, thank you for the price you paid”.  We think of the ultimate cost of sacrifice – of death on a cross, but it’s often hard for me to grasp. 

In 2004 the film world reacted strongly as Mel Gibson tried to convey the reality of the cost Jesus paid in his film “The Passion”.  In a day and age of tolerance, many took offence at the film and both he and the film were labelled in an array of manners.  Often a prejudice ensues in the reviews of art that tries to tackle the topic of Christ.

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Also in 2004, controversial artist Damien Hirst teamed up with David Bailey to produce a series of very graphic and disturbing works called “The Stations Of The Cross”.  The image depicting the crucifixion hangs in Aberdeen Art Gallery.  I found myself staring at it for ages last year.  Whilst the initial impact was horrible, sinister and somewhat evil, I actually found my mind processing what it tried to convey.  I now consider it a great piece of art because it confronts my thinking and challenges me with something of the scandal of the cross anew.  I have often prayed that I could stand at the foot of the cross and let it really impact me afresh.  I’ve sensed something of it when seeing huge statues in pristine cathedrals, but this piece of art disturbed me more than any other and that was actually something positive.  The horror, the brutality, the spiritual forces at play…I would recommend anyone to go with some spare time, an open mind and an open heart and to experience the power of art and something of the power of the gospel.

What about the other costs of the lifestyle decisions Jesus must have made simply to achieve His purpose?  I can be quick to think of the cost of my faith in those terms – the things I go without from time to time…  Then I try to place that in the context of a command to “pick up my cross and follow” and things take a new perspective when I realise how little it sometimes really seems to cost me.  Our Pastor often says, “salvation is fee, but it will cost you everything.”  Actually, that is a kernel of tuth.  But surely, there were a myriad of daily choices that faced a fully human Jesus and commanded obedience and submission? 

I actually get quite excited when I see credible artists using a variety of art forms to explore their thinking and to express something of their own discovery.  I love when that actually connects with people who wouldn’t darken a church door.  The review linked here which appeared in the highly rated indie domain that is “Pitchfork” still gives me goosebumps to read.  Good art can realign our thoughts.  Great art can change our understanding.  

“You gave your body to the lonely.
They took your clothes.
You gave up a wife and a family.
You gave your ghost.
To be alone with me.
To be alone with me.
To be alone with me,
You went up on a tree”.

 From “To Be Alone With You” by Sufjan Stevens.

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"The priest in the booth had a photographic memory for all he had heard. He took all of my sins and he wrote a pocket novel called "The State That I'm In"". From "The State I Am In" by Belle and Sebastian
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