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

O is for…

… Olivesolives

I was going to go for something more profound but really, an olive IS a pretty important thing. As I have a particular adoration for them, I did a little research.

The following fascinating facts I’m about to share will undoubtedly convince you of the Importance of Being an Olive.

Firstly, I’m willing to bet that you had no idea that the edible olive seems to have coexisted with humans since the Bronze Age. That’s around 5 to 6 thousand years. We should know each other pretty well.

Second, we’re not exactly forward in appreciating the health properties of the olive. The ancient Greeks used to smear olive oil on their bodies and hair as a matter of grooming and good health. Greasy Greeks are in good nick.

The oil of the olive (considered a fruit btw) also has a long established reputation of being sacred. Used to anoint kings in ancient times (and athletes, oddly) it was also used to burn in temples and fuelled the original Olympic torch, the ‘eternal flame’ (not the one that The Bangles referred to).

Lastly, the sanctity of the olive and its role in religious traditions is something appreciated in both Christianity and Islam, featuring 7 times in the Qur’an and countless times in The Bible. If only we could all focus on the humble olive.

I didn’t imagine I’d ever find myself writing about olives but now I’ve dipped into it, I could well go on to become the world’s leading expert, and write prolifically about this remarkable little fruit. Olives, it turns out, are a rather understated part of world history and civilisation as we know it.

A bit tongue in cheek… but really..! Who knew?!

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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.

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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

This Short Life

wpid-imag1676_1.jpgA poet like Dickinson has the enviable ability to load a verse with meaning so deep and so heavy you wonder how such simple words can bear the weight.. Her gatherings of commonplace words so often made to shine by their careful ordering, carry a grief so weighty you wonder the words don’t crumble beneath the despair.

This simple little verse almost sags in the middle with the enormity of her existential reflection!

I wanted to put it out there because I think it’s something that every one of needs to have asked and explored. Not in a naval gazing way, more in a back-of-the-mind type of way.

Because I think it’s sometimes good to widen my frame of reference. To briefly place my life on the time / space continuum. It’s sometimes good to feel humbled by the stars. To put my pain and suffering in the context of world history.

And sometimes, it’s good to rethink the areas of my life I can control; and the areas that I can’t. Personally I find it useful to remember that life is short, and wanting control over something doesn’t grant me the right to it. More than that, I know that there are things WITHIN my power, that I need to take control of, rather than deny or disown.

THAT is the hard thing. That’s where Dickinson’s innocent thought is a smack in the face!

New Leaves

Okay folks! I’m going to level with you and you’re probably not going to agree with me…

You know all those beautifully crafted books on the ‘inspiration and motivation’ table in your bookshop? The ones which, somewhat irritatingly for those who are OCD enough to care, won’t sit right on your bookshelf at home because they’re too small, or too square, or too thin?

The soothing, matte cover entices you to pick it up and slide your palm across it… and when you open it, you’re met with a spectacular array of orange sunsets and waterfalls and extreme close ups of droplets sitting heavy on thick green  leaves.

Each photo is laced with wise words we see stitched on cushions, coasters, coffee cups and small, extortionately priced pebbles and metal tokens.

I’m being facetious. But I hope you get the idea that I’m really not the kind of girl who buys into the ‘little book of calm’ culture.

Now I’ve prefaced my post with a stinging crit, I’m going to contradict myself royally by admitting that I saw one such little book in a charity shop and, having been quite moved by words I’d never heard before, I bought it!

One of the things that I believe about life is that every one of us, without exception, needs to believe in new leaves. No matter how good or bad we are, no matter what our race, creed, culture, we all have areas of our lives in which we need to turn over a new leaf.

Arnold Bennett inspired this reflection by putting it like this:

The chief beauty about time

is that you cannot waste it in advance.

The next year, the next day, the next hour
are lying ready for you,
as perfect, as unspoiled,
as if you had never wasted or misapplied
a single moment in all your life.
You can turn over a new leaf every hour
if you choose.

Arnold Bennett

I love the idea that at any given moment,  I can turn over a new leaf.

It doesn’t matter about the charred mass of rubble behind me, it doesn’t matter about the blotted page I’m standing on now, the next step is onto an unspoilt canvas.

God put it like this:

“I–yes, I alone–will blot out your sins for my own sake and will never think of them again”.

(Isaiah 43:25)

New Living Translation

And so it is, that I have to swallow my cynicism, and allow hope, once again, to permeate my soul.

I hope you can too.

Autumn Glory!

Today’s sky, thick with heavy grey cloud, has shed unrelenting, squally spirals of rain all day. The dark of the evening descended long before its due time and with it, a damp, earthy mist.

This time of year brings mixed blessings. The beauty of the colours pitched against the beast of coldness and no more sun.

Fortunate enough to live in a rural area, my drive this morning took me through an arboreal tunnel of Autumn glory. The rich colours of the leaves en masse, lifted my heart, as the joy of being in such beauty rushed through my veins.

The drive back was dark and wind beaten. I squinted at the glaring headlights of passing cars and my wiper blades groaned almost ceaselessly in their efforts to beat the heavy rain.  I remembered as I drove, that the light and the dark are all part of one glorious creation. They are perfectly balanced in the fragile but enduring orbit of the earth. Out of the long, dark evenings comes the slow light of dawn to show the ancient tapestry of red-brown threads that weave through the season’s days.

What art can compare with this natural landscape?