In the shelter, by a bus stop, do I see you standing there?
Will I take a moment now to think of you, and will I care?
Will I spare some head space, and reflect what life here’s like for you,
Step into your heart and soul space, put myself into your shoes?
I don’t know quite what it feels like, being in limbo, not at home,
Feeling different, disconnected, not quite part of things, alone.
Far from friends and family, loved ones, system here is sometimes cold,
Living with uncertainty, a sense that life’s been put on hold,
I don’t face the pain you’re facing, long protracted painful wait,
Feeling like you’re sinking, drowning, just about to suffocate,
But I’ll take some time to just be there and say a prayer for you,
Be a friend and not a stranger, take an interest – smile too,
As I step outside my comfort zone to know you, make a start,
I may find I’m on a journey too, the journey to your heart.
A few poems inspired by the Anglican-initiated global ecumenical call to prayer, this year 21-31st May:
What brings joy without alloy
To Father God above?
And what may lure strong pleasure pure
From his deep heart of love?
To see lost sheep step out (or leap)
To seek him in this place,
One ounce of trust enough, He must
To such reveal His face.
A sudden shock your boat may rock
In life’s tempestuous seas,
Or worry creep and steal your sleep
And leave you ill at ease;
Yet Christ alone, the Living Stone
Can take the helm and steer,
Instil his peace, and bring release,
Dissolve your crippling fear.
Though made to soar, by some strange lore
This world keeps me confined,
A flag to fly, past ‘work, play, die’?
Elusive, hard to find;
One pure and brave rose from the grave,
Unlocked a wider view,
Of greater scope and deeper hope –
And offers it to you.
To trust in ‘truth’ may seem uncouth
In our world-weary age,
Faith may be lost, abandoned, crossed,
“Move on, turn over page”;
Yet Spirit-fire may yet inspire
Faint embers of the heart,
And on them blow, that we may know,
The joy of a new start.
Faded footage of bygone celebration,
A carnival spirit of joy and vacation,
Buckingham, Trafalgar, and lining the Mall,
A people determined to party, “We shall…
Rejoice through the night!”,
they might well have said,
And struggled to put manic children to bed;
A nation in lockdown now fights novel foe,
A fresh incarnation of trouble and woe,
We hail our key workers with rainbows so bright,
A rich ancient symbol, yes let’s not lose sight
Of their role as God’s pledge, to never again
Strike world with a flood-like disaster, and then,
As a king on VE day thanked God up above,
May we learn, perhaps slowly,
Him once more to love.
What is love?
Love? We think of roses and dinner for two,
But I’m not sure right now that this picture will do,
It’s not just nice feelings with a sweetheart or stunner,
The love we need now is a marathon runner,
A care for each other that lasts and has grit,
Be there for each other long term, and not quit,
The love we need now – and maybe a while,
Is one that keeps slogging, for mile after mile.
It’s a difficult time, and you may feel afraid,
Don’t stay there, but climb, take courage, you’re made
To face down your fear, not cling to the shore,
But draw strength right here – yes rise up and roar,
Like the king of the beasts, we’re called to be bold,
From ‘greatest’ to least, whether you’re young or old,
& if you start to slide, at the end of your tether,
Like a strong lion pride, know we’re in it together.
‘Roar’ was broadcast on BBC Radio Leeds Sunday Breakfast, 26th April.
Where can I turn, when I feel alone,
When I feel the door rattle, and hear the wind moan;
When there’s no reassuring hug or a touch,
And loved ones stay at a distance, for such
Is the need to take care – tell me then where
Will I find the deep comfort and warmth that I crave,
When I don’t feel strong, calm, peaceful, or brave?
What if, in the gloom, in that deep darkest night
There is One who will put all my worst fears to flight?
And when at my lowest, weak, sick, in despair,
I could know with the feeblest of trust – You are there.
Now across a stricken world – and throughout our nation,
It feels like we’re living – in suspended animation,
An enforced entombment, normal service put to sleep,
Living life in lock down, left to muse, and dream, and weep,
Yet if we allow ourselves, to pause and breathe, go slow,
There’s a chance we’ll see some fruit that in this soil will grow;
Kindness, care for others, a capacity to wait,
Awareness of those things that take their time, but are not late,
If we dwell with patience now, then slowly hope will rise,
And we’ll yet look upon a world renewed, with wiser eyes.
Already three weeks – in our homes confined,
Anxiety speaks, plans to future consigned,
How long will this unasked for crisis extend?
How will I cope, and when will it end?
Why is it that so much that usually matters
Lies at my feet now in rags and in tatters?
Come away to a far ancient time and there meet
Others whose hopes, dreams lay crushed at their feet,
Friends of the One who had loved them, who died
Who they loved like no other – the earth itself cried;
Yet in their great sadness, that deep darkest night,
The morning brought gladness, deep joy, life and light.
Finally, script for my radio ad playing across the West Yorkshire ‘Pulse’ stations this weekend:
Voice 1 (male):
What will we do – and where will we turn,
To emerge from our pain now, to not crash and burn?
What can be said, in this troubled place
To bring us some quietness, comfort, and space? (pause)
The strange ancient story of one empty tomb
Is a message of life, that will always find room
In the dry dusty heart, that seeks a new start,
When it’s hard to cope – there is always (pause) hope.
Voice 2 (female):
Find out more this Easter – at Christianity.org.uk.
How are you coping with covid-nineteen?
Now the biggest health threat that some of us have seen,
Are you frazzled, and fearful and feeling the heat?
Think you’re getting an earful, scared to go on the street?
It’s amazing for sure how a tiny little virus
Can knock at our door – but I pray it’ll inspire us,
To think out the box, and not let it fox us,
Though it feels a bit now like it’s laughing and mocks us.
It’s a chance to slow down, to be still and reflect,
To ponder more deeply how things intersect,
To rethink our lifestyles, our air miles and habits,
Be creative and caring, not timid like rabbits.
I’ve seen folk be selfish, go out panic buying,
It maddens me, it saddens me – must calm down, I’m trying,
Cos it’s true though, you do know, an extreme situation’s
A chance for those instincts to take a vacation,
A time for us all to be mindful, dig deep
A prime chance to care and be kind, it’s not cheap,
To go out of your way, pray, step out the extra mile,
Give a call to the lonely, if you see them then smile,
You don’t want to look back and think, darn, I blew it,
When I had a chance to help others get through it.
You wouldn’t necessarily think it’s deserved from the way humanity conducts itself, but it transpires our race has, and has always had, a secret admirer. When I say always, I don’t mean since, say, first grade. No. Since before the dawn of time. And when I say humanity, that means you, and me, individually and personally. This is no part-time lover we’re talking about, but one who’s in it for the long haul. In no hurry. Plays the long game, has a plan. In all of human history, and on a smaller scale in every human life that ever was.
In some regards the most secretive admirer who has ever lived (and has lived forever). But persistent. Willing to face rejection any number of times, if only the pursued will sit up and begin to take notice…
An unconventional lover. Invisible, for one thing. Not much of a talker. Strong silent type. If you could see this lover… might be tall and craggy, with rugged good looks (made the Himalayas). But perhaps also hints of mystery and femininity (made Venus too).
Down the aeons, this lover has sought to woo human beings in a myriad ways (the original hopeless romantic), without wishing to make any of it too obvious. The big set piece stuff is hard to miss, particularly a nice line in awe-inspiring natural wonders. Massive mountains, spectacular sunsets, towering trees, amazing animals. Human beings have often had a good eye for the gift itself, and the cleverer ones like to turn it over and over and round and round, prod it and see what happens. Not always quite so good at discerning the giver behind the gift. Nor quit so adept at picking up clues. Not always so subtle.
This secret admirer further sought to capture human attention through an infinitely varied web of signs, hints and ‘seductions’, often uniquely tailored to the individual. Curious concatenations of circumstances. Words read or heard. Trains of thought sparked by works of art and literature, strains of longing from particular pieces of music. Sometimes something hard to put your finger on – but which had the desired effect of setting a heart seeking.
Perhaps more than anything, a love letter has the power to melt defences and soften the hardest heart – and the one proceeding from this lover’s mind was unsurpassed. In the long march of history, it has gained an esteem and affection that has never been lost – even if parts of the human race have at times considered themselves too sophisticated and clever for its overtures and appeals. But where this letter has been taken to heart and pored over, its recipients have been captivated by the story of the great Lover’s love for humanity, and the lengths he would go to in order to secure their affections. They have caught a glimpse of the Personality present in these pages. Caught a taste of the presence of the living God.
And not just on Valentine’s, but every day of their brief lives, human beings have the opportunity to let go of their own feeble attempts to find an ultimate love, meaning and significance – and abandon themselves first to the pursuit and embrace of the greatest love, expressed in this, the greatest story ever told.
I saw a man, one Valentine’s day, and woe betide if you got in his way,
As his frame darkened that restaurant door, he didn’t look so kind – though he wasn’t poor,
It’s no surprise, it won’t amaze, she was the focus of his gaze,
The sole recipient of his flowers, the one he doted on for hours and hours,
But it made me wonder, a hunch you know, did his love stretch further than this nice warm glow?
It made me think how small and narrow, our love can be despite Cupid’s arrow…
Do you think you’re alone in this universe? Might hold too tight to your loved one or worse,
Be wary and jealous, to that one person cling, not care much for strangers- a worrying thing
But if I see myself (not a fashionable idea), as deeply loved by the One who’s far and near,
The one who holds each person in his care…
Well such revelation is a game changer right there,
It gives a security deep down in my being,
Lets my love grow and expand – a fresh way of seeing,
I’ll love in deeper, richer ways, and not just on one day,
Nor just my loved one, family, friends – but each person on the way.