Advent poem

In the deepening twilight, of a waning year
Hopeful yet mysterious, ‘Advent’ now appears
See the hurried shoppers, in the settling gloom
Of a dark December, tell me is there room
In our imaginations, at the very least
To see behind the bustle, a different kind of feast
Shops a little sparser now, usually overflowing
Still our souls are thirsting, yearning, little knowing
In the midst of credit cards, and debt, and money spent
Where the true source lies of peace and joy and deep content
December now grows pregnant, rising expectation
Dreams, desires and fragile hopes, permeate a nation
Yet behind the gaudy mess, a different hope prevails
A light that breaks upon the heart, a joy that never fails
Could it be, that birth long buried in the mists of time
Still retains its power to captivate your heart and mine?
What would happen if we paused, a moment stilled our thoughts
Might this child yet prove to be, the treasure that we sought?

Toxic 3 – Hope

Something that doesn’t quite fill me with mirth –
Thinking a moment about the future of earth –
Is, how will we come to a place where we care
About something so far off, remote, over there?
We hear about it, but how we can be troubled by heating
The global kind, when impacts here are so fleeting?
I wonder, if we’re to move past a short-sighted view
Do we need to look deeper at ourselves a bit too
We could do with regaining a perspective quite rare
A fuller and richer vision of care
We’d do worse than recover some wisdom of old
To move from being small to big-hearted and bold
We might even shift from the selfish rat race
To relate more, and move in the rhythms of grace
What if behind everything there’s a power
Of love and of good, which we need in this hour
If we’re made in the image of God, that gives scope
To move forward determined, with courage and hope
To give up addictions and foul toxic ways
Pursue a strong future for all, for always

Broadcast on Premier Christian Radio

Toxic 2 – Food

In all of life’s pressures, do we have room
To give some attention to what we consume?
Are we uneasy, alarmed, do we brood
When we consider our treatment of food?
Stark, in the light of nature in retreat
Are we at peace with addiction to meat?
The forests it fells and the gas it exhales
The land it consumes and the wildlife it nails
Can we imagine and fresh contemplate
A healthier variety of food on our plate?
A diet that’s filled with attention and care
Not with anxiety, tension, a snare
What if the path to good health had its start
Not in the things we consume, but the heart?
What if the thing that is fragile and rare
Planetary health, had its best allies there?
What if the medicine for Earth in distress
Was firstly a humble consumption of less?
What if those roots of a future that’s bright
Lay in those heart-shoots of faith, hope and light?

Broadcast on Premier Christian Radio

Toxic 1 – Oil

We are all different, I don’t know what you think
But there’s something I know and it’s starting to stink
I don’t know if you’re worried, I don’t know if you’re scared
Or if this big thing that is troubling me is shared
Still I’ve been thinking about the way that we live
All of the habits and stuff we hang with
The way that our life is embedded in oil
All of the ways it has us in its coils
You can’t look too hard at your daily routine
And not see how it’s scarred by the fossil fuel queen
What we put in our hair, what we pour in our cars
It gives me a scare just to see how it mars
Our life on this fragile and beautiful earth
How it holds and it moulds and it drains us of mirth
So I think that it’s worth giving quite a big pause
To ask how this dragon got us in its claws
I wonder, to quench such a ravaging fire,
Do we need to examine our roots of desire?
To tame and restrain this compulsive affliction
Do we need to think hard about carbon addiction?

Broadcast on Premier Christian Radio during COP26

Earth Remembrance

I sense a fresh dimension to Remembrance this year
Fallen soldiers, not for them alone we shed a tear
Another source of sadness now engulfs our troubled world
The tendrils of a different grief around our hearts now curl
Remembering former conflicts, honouring those who fell
Let’s listen to that other grief that in our hearts now swells
Conflict, it has meanings that are not confined to war
Bayonets and battles are not all we’re grieving for
A shrill alarm, a clarion call: our conflict with the earth
Novel forms of death to which destructive ways gave birth
This Remembrance Day, let us not solely view the past
Let us weigh a future that is coming at us fast
How better can we honour those who paid such sacrifice
Than dare give up our comfort for the sake of future life
Life encompassing the ones who’ll live here after us
People, creatures and a planet placed within our trust
Climate – it is said the situation’s like a war
A scale and challenge unlike anything we’ve fought before
A safer, greener, fairer earth is surely worth the price
Of careful thought and action now, a personal sacrifice
Echo faint yet resonant of sacrifice once made
By One who dwells within creation, on whom grief was laid
Love of God, a tenderness and breadth of endless scope
Like poppy red, where all seemed dead, now springs afresh with hope

Broadcast on BBC Radio Leeds Sunday Breakfast

Poem: To a refugee

As the media glare is shifting, as the headlines fade from view

Each of us will face the question, how we see and think of you

You have made a leap into the great unknown, and so I’ll try

To imagine just a little what it’s like, to see things through your eyes

From the moment of arrival, in this new and foreign place

A different struggle for survival waits, an unfamiliar space

It may feel at times confusing, word and gesture to decode

Encounters raw and sometimes bruising, on this long and winding road

You may find things hard to fathom, you may find us hard to read

You may feel an aching chasm, may I have eyes to see your need

Before all else, like me you’re human, clothed with strength and dignity

This thought I’ll hold in each encounter, through this lens I’ll seek to see.

(penned in response to the Afghanistan crisis. Addressing an imagined refugee).

Olympics & Justice

This radiant contest, this sparkling thing:

The Olympics, a spectacle to make the heart sing

Gathering of rare-gifted sporting elite

The strong and the skilled, the honed and the fleet;

And yet a pandemic asks us to stop

Revise our obsession with those at the top

Take a step back, embrace a collective

Overdue appraisal, a change of perspective;

Just a suggestion, a novel idea

For you now, immersed in the Olympics this year:

As you marvel at those at their physical peak

Can you also make space in your heart – for the weak?

For those indisposed and with no chance to shine

On such a big stage, no medal to mine;

As you praise the perfected, think too of the poor

Remember the values the Olympics stand for;

Excellence, friendship, equality, respect

Are just a selection of good ones, and yet

Why stop with those, why not increase

Our struggle for justice, our wrestling for peace;

Running for goodness, a deep dive for truth

Not minding if I look unhinged or uncouth

And let’s not go solo, into this fight

Team up and dream up, keep hope in sight

And when you are tempted to drop off the pace

Look up and be helped by that rare thing – called grace.

Broadcast on BBC Radio Solent & Premier Christian Radio

Image by Thomas Wolter at Pixabay.

Audio:

Poem for Mandela Day

We know in this world there’s a lot that’s unjust

You might sit there thinking, yeah I know that, but must

Must I really do something, do I have to act

Cos I’m actually quite comfy right here, that’s a fact

And you know what, I get that, I totally do

I find it pretty hard leaving my comfort zone too

But today and right now I wanna share a few tips

I’ll make it quite snappy, I’ll go at a clip:

First, find a problem that engages your heart

That thing you think’s wrong is a great way to start

Next up, get closer to what you care about

Get to know and research it, it’ll give you more clout

As you think about how you can get personally involved

In tackling this issue that needs to be solved

Maybe helping the homeless, or famine abroad

Volunteering at a food bank, giving what you can afford

Picking up litter, visiting someone in need

Helping your friend to get fitter, or planting a seed

And no matter how big or small is the scope

Of your action for justice, your ally is hope

It’s that wider horizon, big picture, long view

It has a quality divine and can help us here too

They say the arc of the universe bends towards the light;

So hold onto that thought, don’t let it slip out of sight.

Audio :

A more beautiful game?

I won’t soon forget, being with a crowd

In a pub, watching England, it was really quite loud

I’m no diehard fan, but it was difficult to frown

On so many jumping for joy up and down

They whooped and they shouted, then did so some more

I was shocked that more beer wasn’t knocked on the floor

It’s a remarkable thing, this national obsession

A lightning rod for so much delight – and aggression

So much devotion for these heroes adored

So much emotion when one of them’s scored

It’s an art, a kind of worship, it’s been called a religion

Overstatement? – you think so, but that’s for the pigeons

There’s simply nothing else that arouses such passion

I used to think there was, but that view’s out of fashion;

But the question that I really want to ask here today

Is where do we turn, when it’s all gone away

This grappling with overblown hope, or despair

What do we do when it’s no longer there?

Here’s a little insight, a hunch, just a feeling:

I’m not sure that football’s got a high enough ceiling

To let the human spirit fully flourish and soar

I suspect that we’ll always well, want something more

Is there a bigger purpose, where we’re called to take part

A more ‘beautiful game’, a kind of ‘life work of art’ 

When the stadiums clear and the shouts fade away

Is there something that can help you in the mere day to day?

There’s a beautiful word, do you know it, called ‘grace’

It’s from God, it’s for each of us, it can light up a face

And I hold out the hope that every person, each nation

Is invited, one day, to a bigger celebration.

Image by tookapic from Pixabay

Madagascar crisis

What’s the worst thing going on in the world right now? A glance at the paper might suggest something like, you can’t fly to your chosen holiday destination anymore. Disappointing, yes. A disaster? No.

Do we stop and think enough about situations of real need in the world? I heard from a charity that thousands of people in southern Madagascar are on the brink of famine. Almost nothing to eat – leaves, termites, tamarind and clay. People are dying. It’s the first I’d heard of it! Almost unreported – an invisible tragedy.

            And something else: it’s the result of four years of drought, driven by higher temperatures and climate change. Produced in no small part by our western consumer lifestyles. Do you see the disconnect? While we worry about where we can or can’t fly, there are people worrying about where they’ll find their next meal.

So what would Jesus say? He cared deeply about people in need, including the hungry. And he calls us to care too.  So let’s step up and stand out. Not turn away, but care, pray, help – and give. If we don’t – who will?

Image by andreas160578 from Pixabay