Sweet Sweet Music…

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There’s just nothing else like music when it comes to bringing people together.
A quick trip to Cheltenham today happily coincided with a ukulele ‘meet’ / festival and it was, quite honestly, a bit of a heartwarmer. I’m well aware that can sound a little schmaltzy, but I mean it in the sincerest way.
All around me, people stopped to listen. More, encouraged by a charismatic front man, people actually joined in with the singing, even shuffling their feet! For one moment, there was a sense of something like harmony (unintended pun). Shoppers, Lunch breakers, stressed office workers, young mothers, ladies who lunch… just for a moment, stopped and smiled and sang.
In the wake of such tragedy; the brutal murder of the UK MP Jo Cox; and in
the midst of pre referendum bitching, there was a beautiful reminder that humanity can be bound and held by a simple and natural art.
Music has a power that transcends our differences, that bypasses our intellect and that touches our innocence. 
Thank God for music.

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T is for…

Taizé. For me, one of the most beautiful and sacred places I have ever been.

Although an ecumenical community, Taizé seems to be best know within the Roman Catholic church. I suppose because its founder, Brother Roger was Catholic.

It would be very difficult for me to explain the experience that Taizé offers without sounding a little strange, so I am hesitant to even attempt to articulate a post about it. However, taking the risk, I’m going to use a combination of pictures and words to describe this awesome place.

First and foremost, Taizé is a monastic community nestled in the beautiful hills of Burgundy, France. Just as the second world war was breaking out, a 25 year old man from Switzerland crossed the border and bought a house in the hills. Feeling the call to set up a community, he bought a small house in the area, which also happened to be quite close to the demarcation line dividing France in two: it was well situated for sheltering refugees fleeing the war. Friends from Lyon started giving the address of Taizé to people in need of a place of safety.

After the war, a young lawyer set up an association to look after children whose parents were killed in the war. Joined by a number of other ‘brothers’ and sisters, the community began to care for these children and also German prisoners of war.

And so a religious community began… More and more young men heard about this place and came along to test their vocation and begin a lifelong commitment to serving Christ.

Today, over a hundred brothers from 30 different nations, both Catholic and Protestant make up the community, founded by the late, humble and beautifully gentle ‘Frere Roger’ and now led by his successor, Brother Alois .

Taize has become a place where thousands of young people come on a weeks retreat, following the monastic rhythm of the day and seeking God through prayer, meditation, song and fellowship. It is the one place where I have found true peace and indescribable friendships, laughter and fun!

taize2

Never, in all my life, could I imagine a church, with over 6,000 young people, in total silence for ten whole minutes everyday. Never could I imagine a place where, three times a day, young people from ALL over the world, sing in one language, together, regardless of their native tongue.

Taize_Candele_6k

The songs are simple ‘chants’ and are written in almost every language imaginable! For one minute you may be singing in English, the next in Czech, followed by a Spanish one. It is beautiful and prayerful in the deepest sense I know.

Taize cleaning

A group of young people assigned a cleaning task for the week!

Taize serving meal

How they manage it I don’t know, but with the aid of each young visitor, thousands are fed and watered three times a day, and then two snack times, every day of every week.An amazing feat of organisation!

taize-bells

Young people sit around after lunch.

I would recommend this place to anybody who is seeking peace; anyone who wants to find a sense of meaning; anyone who wants a break from the rat race; anyone who feels trapped in the crazy material, consumer society.

Go and experience something different!

http://www.taize.fr/en

N is for…

Nothing.

nihilism-theres-really-nothing-to-it-quote-1
Absolutely NOTHING will pop up in my head when I try to think of an ‘N’ to write a short, imaginative and captivating post about. Why it is that I am so wholly devoid of inspiration I don’t know. It’s possible that a pervasive tiredness bears some responsibility, that and the illness I have tends to hijack the parts of my brain that might be otherwise creatively engaged.

So N is for Nihilism. For the philosophically uninitiated, this is the belief that the world and everything in it, life, values, morals, laws… are meaningless. There is no POINT to anything, nothing has any meaning.

Macbeth sums it up beautifully when he says:

“Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player That struts and frets his hour upon the stage And then is heard no more; it is a tale Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, Signifying nothing.”

It’s a painful thought; one which challenges the my Christian faith on a daily basis at the moment. It would be so much easier to believe that life really is just a brief candle which is eventually snuffed out to burn no more.  Perhaps owing to the extremist tendencies of Anorexia, nihilism stalks me daily, lightly running cold fingers through my hair. Death-coated whispers trickle through the aural canals, trembling tiny bones and dizzying my stance.

Turns out I have something to write about after all.

N is for Nietzsche. For Nihilism. For Nothing.

A2Z-BADGE-2016

 

M is for…

…Mentoring.A2Z-BADGE-2016

It’s what I’m good at, and you honestly won’t hear me use that phrase very often.

As the official leader of The Society of Burnt Out Teachers, I nowadays realise that although my passion for teaching English and English Literature will never waver, the transference of my enthusiasm doesn’t have to be within a classroom. No. In some ways, it’s easier to deliver it within a mentoring relationship. Because, as most good teachers will agree, at a certain age, its RELATIONSHIP which is the single most important factor in the delivery of successful teaching.

Mentoring allows a relationship to flourish (hopefully) and then, once established, it’s an open landscape on which, as a trusted mentor, you can help to build whatever scene and whichever structure, will most benefit and satisfy the mentee.

I’ve mentored a lot of your people, before and during my teaching career. Nothing sparks me like being able to nurture an ambition in someone. I love to help breathe hope into other people’s hearts. Nothing gives me a renewed sense of purpose like showing someone else their purpose.

Anybody else get this?

J and K…

Bear with me o

kay?

(I know it’s cheating but sometimes you just have to take a shortcut.)

Here’s mine…

J is for Jesus. Mostly, if you reaA2Z-BADGE [2016]d the gospels, a very likeable chap. Mystical, yes. Unpredictable, very. Would you have hung out with him? And if you would… for what reason? Because no doubt about it, he was pretty rebellious…and exciting… Would you have enjoyed the drama? Would you have liked it that he caused a stir? Would you have been attracted by the cool magic stuff? Would you have been drawn to his intense love and his wisdom?

C.S Lewis had a lot to say about the matter and I leave his famous quote about Jesus here. It’s a good one to ponder…

“I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God. That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”
― C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

E is for Evening Sunlight…

That fleeting time when the wordless glory of the evening sun dashes against the bricks and the hedges, the streets and the people; firing the land with its last red breaths and, for one trembling moment, the humdrum earth of … Continue reading

D is for Dreams

I’m not talking about the type that you have at night… although I sometimes dream so vividly that they will cast shadows across the consciousness long into the day… No. I mean the dreams that I might have stuffed into a tiny corner of my mind many years ago.

Even before Anorexia poisoned the greater part of my mind, I think I’d stopped dreaming properly. I was a ruthless gardener, pruning without sentiment, uprooting indiscriminately. No sooner than the fresh stem appears, I cut it off. tiny-seed

For the purpose of this post, I’m laying my secateurs down. Curiously, I have to really squint to see the tiny beginnings of dreams. Some so small I can’t even identify them.

One is to travel. Preferably across the US… in a truck… with a camera and a guitar.

Another is to live abroad for a year

One is to recover from this illness and then serve others who are plagued by it.

And I’d really like to have a craft business, or a coffee shop.

Oh… and I want to write a book… or two…

Then there’s one I can barely see, is a dream I fear to admit. The dream of all dreams. The dream that almost everybody has. I screw up my eyes and exhale as I blow away the seeds… If I admit it, it might not come true…

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