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

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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

Rebel

If your default state of mind involves a relentless drive towards perfection.Rebel

If the eye flinching, wincing, mincing voice of piercing criticism carries through veins and synapses

If your head is bent and darkened by the brightness of those around you

If you cannot bear the bird that longs to nestle in your palm, for fear that it will turn and peck your sockets hollow

If your thoughts are spurs and feelings, whips that lash your saddened soul

and your mind set is a thirst that’s only quenched by a glass half full

then hear the call and heed it

Rebel against your own state of mind.

A whisper about Halloween…

And it IS a whisper, because I am so uncomfortable with expressing a belief that to a great many people, will seem ridiculous, horribly humbug-ish, off-puttingly evangelical, or just plain crackpot!

I hate the idea that I am in any way an ‘over serious – too prescriptive – fundamentalist’ Christian, and so often this leads me to stay quiet on the subject of evil. But this is the truth about a belief I hold somewhere, deep down, embedded in my sense of spirituality and given the deathly, festive feel to a lot of blog spaces at the mom ent, I am going to give my two pennyworth!

I don’t celebrate Halloween in the supermarket sense. (Had you guessed already?)

I should probably explain (in an off handed manner) that I “don’t mind if OTHER people want to dress up as witches and ghouls and zombies and devils”.

“That’s FINE. It’s just not for me”.

But actually, I DO mind.

I do mind that every year, we make a joke of something that is really very serious. I do mind that while we while away hours playing with ghoulish things and partying with blood and fire and all kinds of whacked out representations of the devil, ‘real’ evil is creeping round, enjoying the kudos, harming people who playfully open their minds to it.

What I most object to about Halloween, is the fact that in our preoccupation with the paranormal, and our laughter at the concept of all things ghoulish, we make a mockery of an evil that is so fearfully real, that were it to be unveiled before us, we would quake and cower and beg for mercy.

Okay.

Now I’m stepping down from my (non orange) soapbox.

I know it’s controversial but… any thoughts?