Beauty is….

So far, summer has not afforded me as much opportunity to get out and get lost in photography as I would like. That said, I have recently been thinking through what beauty is…what it really is, not what we see it as from so many areas of society which wish to control what we want and how we look.

A few months ago I spent a week in Portugal and had the privilege of getting lost behind my camera, which was so refreshing. As well as the obligatory holiday snaps though, I wanted to capture a different view of beauty…

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This was the view from our hotel room…I found it bizarre that each day these were the items which were hung to dry, and yet I saw something of beauty in the simplicity of this display.

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We met a couple who were making their living through this art; one would paint the rocks the other would arrange them. Their messages were simple. For me the beauty was in the way they were seeking to challenge and their understated way of offering this to the world.

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I had never been so close up to even one peacock, let alone whole families of them. Here the beauty was in what had not been previously seen, as well as in their inquisitive charm!

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We had not been aware that it was PRIDE on our first day in Lisbon. Watching the parade come through the city was incredibly moving though. Again the beauty was in the simple sentiments, such as ‘Love has no limits’.

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Beauty as attraction! In the square bubbles were being blown and flying off in all directions due to the wind. It was so simple, and yet fascinating to watch them, wondering how long they would last, where they would land, when they would burst.

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Beauty in the simple solutions, in that which is old, or distorted by rust, beauty in that which many would not notice, or is the beauty in the blue backdrop?

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Beauty in the warmth of the evening, beauty in the sunset glow.

Whilst I am not sure I managed to capture a different view of beauty, I see this as the beginning of a conversation, which I invite you to join in with. A conversation where we capture beauty in all of its awe and wonder, beauty as breath-taking because of its freshness, not as perfection but rather as imperfection, beauty as that which is not known, beauty as something which allows us to glimpse the Divine in the everyday.

Please share your images of this kind of beauty in the comments section to enable us collectively to rewrite the meaning of beauty, so that our sons and daughters, nieces and nephews and grandchildren can grow up being released and liberated by its definition, rather than constrained or imprisoned by it, afraid to go out, to wear what they really like, or to be truly and wonderfully who they are!

Thought provoking…

I’ve just finished reading The Good Immigrant which is a collection of essays about what it’s like to live in a country that doesn’t trust you and doesn’t want you…

There were a number of heartbreaking reflections but one of the saddest was Musa Okwonga who decided to leave Britain because of such deep-rooted institutional racism. He said:

“Britain was not great because of its papers and politicians who relentlessly denigrated us, it was great in spite of them. Britain was great because of the spontaneous community spirit you saw as soon as a small town was flooded, because of the volunteers who turned out in their tens of thousands to act as stewards for the Olympic Games. But that wasn’t a spirit that I felt my country was doing nearly enough to nurture.”

This hit me between the eyes as I read precisely because of the sadness and hope within it. A growth in our collective community spirit could be the grassroots response needed to tackle a number of issues in our midst, not least the divisions we have a tendency to draw due to race, ethnicity, religion, gender, sexuality and disability.

Can we nurture this community spirit in order to look outwards rather than onwards? To welcome the stranger and care for the lonely? This book is a must read, an incredibly uncomfortable mirror to look into, but one which I pray will change hearts and minds for the better. Amen.

Let the eyes of your heart guide

For our patronal festival I preached about letting the eyes of our hearts be a guide to the need within our community – a need which we can meet in a simple way, yet which feels huge to the person on the receiving end!

If we let the eyes of our heart guide, what do we actually see? I have been reading Peter Wohlleben’s The Hidden Life of Trees. He writes about trees as social beings with a sense of community and has literally brought trees to life for me! I was incredibly struck by the apparent echoes there are in creation as so much life was created to be in community…and yet it feels like we don’t do community as well as we could. How often do we help for no other reason than for the good of someone else? How often do we forget looking out for ourselves and bettering our own ends? How often do we see need and respond to it?

This led me to think about the film Pay it Forward where a young boy responds to his Social Sciences project of ‘Think of a way to make the world a better place and put it into action’ with the idea of doing something for three people that they would not be able to do for themselves, and asking only that they similarly do something for three other people. The exchange of help becomes about hundreds of people rather than just between a few individuals.

What if we lived more like this? What if we gave for the love of giving and loved as Jesus loves? What if we seek love not war? Would it make a difference? #actofrandomkindness

Mutuality

“As Christians, we have become so fixated on our roles as servants that we miss out on the relationships of mutuality that the Spirit wants to knit between people.”

Craig Greenfield: Subversive Jesus

The Shinkansen Travellers

Traveller life forces on ahead at the speed of light.
The shinkansen practically flying along bullet speed lines.
Moments have passed,
“Mamonaku! Tsugi ha…”
“Attention please! Our next stop is…”

There is barely any attention for the present, the here and now!
And yet already travellers have reached Tokyo.
“Tokyo ha shuuten desu”
“This is the last stop this train will make”

Lives once lived and now gone.
And for what – achievements, marks made?
What remains in these once occupied seats?
They lie in wait for the next travellers.
Lost property is moved on to join a throng of impressions.
Allusions to travellers emeriti lie amongst unaffected effects.
Just occasionally one such suggestion is left behind.
A find which causes future travellers to ponder.
“What went before?”
“Or more aptly who?”

Such intrigue is unusual on this otherwise silent journey.
Travellers are lulled by the steady rhythm of the shinkansen.
“Mamonaku! Tsugi ha…”
“Attention please! Our next stop is…”

Could such curiosity be imagined?
Or does such an object point to hope for this journey?
Perhaps the unknown destination is not to be feared.
Yet all travellers can do is remain;
reading their newspapers on the train,
littered with everything and nothing, perceived yet rarely known….
“Mamonaku! Tsugi ha…”
“Attention please! Our next stop is…”

To ponder…

“The contemplation of things as they are without substitution or imposture without error or confusion is in itself a nobler thing than a whole harvest of invention”

Francis Bacon
“Stop looking and…begin seeing! Because looking means that you already have something in mind for your eye to find; you’ve set out in search of your desired object and have closed off everything else presenting itself along the way. But seeing is being open and receptive to what comes to the eye.”

Thomas Merton

Are you busy?

It seemed like a simple question, and yet I was frozen on the spot…how could I answer? It wasn’t the kind of enquiry which might result in a request of some sort, but rather an extension of “how are you?”


Thoughts came crashing all around me like a huge wave…am I busy enough? Or am I perhaps too busy?


“Busy” can be like a badge of honour in our society – the busier we are, the more valid our existence. 


In contrast to that idea, I aim to give the impression of having as little going on as possible – not out of laziness, but rather to be open and available to those who need. 


It can be so hard to keep grounded, remain focused on being present, when there is a reason to daydream and to keep your head in the clouds (to a point)…


…to notice in a new way, or to see through God’s lens.


How can I possibly measure a ‘heaven focus’ with a gauge of this world?


This simple question whirled around in my head, as I tried desperately to feel my way to the truth and find a sense of peace. 


A light had been shone on my need to reconnect  with God who calls me to minister amongst the people, day after day, and to find my peace there. 


As I walked out into the city the next day, on my day off, I ways struck by this street art, which for me depicted the hands of God breaking through, drawing me to rest. Busyness is such a complex concept – but do we dare to not seek it?

Shifting the Focus

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Sometimes we think we know exactly what we are looking at, and where we are heading. A simple distraction can lead all of that to change!

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Things can seem slightly less clear or blurry round the edges!

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This can lead to greater disorientation….

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Returning to a place of harmony, at least, can involve shifting your focus or looking at things a little differently.

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It might mean focusing more closely on aspects which identify who we are, or where we are.

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Perhaps trying to see these things in a new light will be helpful.

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Or shaking off our own preconceived ideas in order to really see.

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The more intently we refocus, the more likely we are to see beyond those preconceptions and misconceptions, and discover something quite different from our initial assumptions.

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That is when we will really have shifted our focus to a lens which enables us to see well beyond what we think is possible….How can you become more God focused?