You’re in a firestorm. Heart pummelled, battered. Wrung, shattered. Child, grandchild, loved one, lamb. From your life ‘untimely ripped’. Her bubbling laugh is silenced. Her innocent eyes are shuttered. She’ll not now see the summer fields of promise. While suited men with stony looks, sign and seal the status quo. And feign condolence, sit on hands, and cling to power with wolfish bent. The night is long, the way is hard – yet promise rests Of wrapped up hearts, and dried up tears, the splintered vase restored. While hearts of stone will yet be shattered. Beaten, broken, brought to book.
Whatever could have happened, to Putin’s fluffy cat? You know the kind, that in a Bond film villain’s lap is sat That’s white and slightly sinister, which you’d imagine that If re-embodied human, would wear a posh cravat.
Did it find while lolling there, hand running through its fur That with the plans of Vladimir, it could no way concur Did it feel, on white cats everywhere they’d be a slur Which could some consequences, far from cat-friendly, incur?
In its ice-cool moggy heart, and in its brain feline Did it sense this Kremlin kid was badly out of line For a nicer Bond-ish villain did our friend now pine In point of fact, did Putin’s fluffy cat just flat resign?
I find myself asking, what does it mean? The ritual celebration of this strange thing unseen Mysterious event, in history shrouded Somehow in popular imagination now clouded Those beatific images, glowing and pure Three painted crosses, pristine grave, I’m not sure Why, for such a frail thing, Christians give thanks In a world marred by guns, and brutality, and tanks What good’s ‘resurrection’ in the grime and the mud In a bomb-blighted landscape, killing fields of blood Till we remember that Jesus, before the faint-dawning light Fell foul as well of raw political might He too was cornered and ground down and crushed His goodness they tried hard to drown out and hush And yet Easter morning made it clear, made it plain A slow burning power that couldn’t be contained That burst every barrier, broke through every wall Filled hearts with joy and made timid men tall And I trust that in war zones, and each human heart This power still brings healing, and hope, a new start
Broadcast on BBC Radio Leeds & Premier Christian Radio
Lent is with us now, but something else distracts and occupies Our hearts and minds, another land, where trauma bites, a small child cries An aerial bombardment, and sharp explosions fill the night A people underground, too scared to brave the grey of morning light While supermarket shelves see vital foodstuffs dwindle, fade away And desperate people seek enough to make it through another day A place of churches, homes and farms and factories, I little knew Its history till now, a place the world’s concern is pointed to A land of plains and golden spires and crosses carries now the scar Of brutal conflict, while a world looks on in horror from afar, But now the Lenten season makes me stop and wait and slow and pause And think, is any simmering conflict down to me, am I the cause? It urges me to strip back, change tack, take my cross, the desert way Examine what is flawed or wrong in what I think and do and say And take a cue from those whose faith sustains them in their hour of need And let it be for me a flame of hope, of courage fresh, a seed.
What do we make of, well yeah, Valentines, the day of red hearts, flowers and chocolate and wine It doesn’t look so fluffy and sweet and divine, when you think of the ruthless pursuit, of-the-bottom-line How did a day praising love and connection, come to be such a brash profit-driven confection? How did a theme of such beauty and soul, in a money-ruled world occupy such a role? See how the environment’s also given birth, to a reckoning with how we now impact the earth It costs a great deal both to grow and to ship, flowers that next day may end up on a tip It’s not just the day’s not to everyone’s taste; with the cards and the packaging, there’s a whole lot of waste; We’re split how we view Valentines, it’s a mix, for some the whole day can’t be over too quick Is it cuddles and kisses and breakfast in bed? For others the day evokes nothing but dread But how might it be if we looked a bit deeper, I hazard there’s truth out there, though it’s a ‘sleeper’ It’s ironic, to celebrate love secret, concealed – when the best love of all, that was hidden – ‘s now revealed A love we might run from, and hide and ignore, a love that invites, and ignites, that’s a door Through which any one of us can step through and find, a comfort enfolding, embracing and kind And so on a day that can be hit or miss, whether you love it or loathe it, it’s worth hearing this: There’s a love that like hawk on the wing reaches far – that seeks out and can save you, whoever you are.
For BBC local radio & other interested stations. Image by rzierik at Pixabay
The Winter Olympics – yes we’re off to Beijing, and not without controversy, which’ll certainly add zing There are two things quite frankly I find fascinating, there might well be more, but I won’t keep you waiting: I’m struck by the wintry beauty out there, iced mountains alone give me joy, to be fair And there’s nothing like forested pristine snow slopes, to awaken strange longings, lost joys, even hopes But the other thing that strikes me’s the drive to excel, the exertion of humans doing something so well A bob sled like bullet, hurtling along, the speeds it can reach will just strike you as ‘wrong’ And few things compare to a skier, whip fast, hunched over and focused, like lightning speed past I’m in awe of those skaters and the shapes that they make, and the ones who in lycra race right round a lake I feel that this urge to excel, this desire, to stretch, push, is somehow God-given, this fire And though I am called to a different quest, I still feel that tug to give my all and my best And the thing that helps most, from within and above, is a sense of acceptance, that’s rooted in love I hold the conviction, deep down and within, that God’s for us, and in the best sense, wants us to ‘win’.
We’re now a whole fortnight into twenty twenty two, I’ve frankly no-idea how that happened, do you? Wasn’t so long ago I had mince pies and cake, I’m up to my neck now in work, for pity’s sake What about you? How are you feeling? Tip top, or just like a house whose paint’s peeling? I really wouldn’t blame you, I’d quite understand, if you felt out of sorts, unmoored or unmanned It’s tough that back then it was angels and ‘Hark!’, and now all you’ve got is some bills, and it’s dark The blackest and bleakest time of the year, that’s a-design-fault and a half, t’would appear It stretches ahead, a whole year spanking new, but that’s not so helpful, when your head feels like stew So here’s a little thought that might shed some hope, at a time when some of us, well, struggle to cope If it’s gloomy outside, then it strikes me as clever, to find light within, well never say never To grab the year by the horns, and put on it your stamp, try seeking light for your own inner lamp The brilliant thing is, it’s not just down to you, there’s someone who tells us he’ll help us out too Did you ever hear that Jesus is called the ‘light of the world’? It’s a special thought I reckon, in fact it’s a pearl If he can help me out here, light me up from inside, well you know what? I might just be up for the ride.
Glancing up at the Christmas lights and seasonal decorations, Arthur scowled and continued down the cobbled street. He always felt torn at this time of year. He liked the warm glow, but had less time for the origin story, and even less for all the fluffy excess. He drew up his coat collars and pulled his woolly hat further down. The street was thick with holiday shoppers. The growl of buses and their splashing wheels punctuated the city’s late afternoon background hum. His thoughts slipped into a melancholy furrow. Yes, he liked the festive traditions, twelve days of Christmas and all that – but found it next to impossible to believe that a world of angels and miracles might actually exist. First year student philosophy hadn’t helped. Neither did seeing the latest celebrity author title in a bookshop window. Surely any angel worth his salt could magic that away. He almost tripped over the old homeless man slumped at the street corner – and immediately apologised. “Ach, don’t worry about it” said the tramp, a rosy-faced individual. Arthur offered to buy him a coffee. “That’s kind of you” the fellow replied, “but you look more in need of it than me.” From his coat pocket, he pulled out a small bottle and gave it to Arthur. “Try this. Just a wee dram of something. It’ll do you good. Promise.” “Er, thanks” replied the student, nonplussed. “I’ll take it with me if that’s ok”. He carried on down the street. He of course had no intention of drinking an unknown liquid from a stranger – but was intrigued all the same. He turned back a moment – the tramp was gone. He scanned the bobbing pedestrians: nowhere to be seen. “Strange”, he thought. The bottle was exquisite. And though he was a sensible chap, his curiosity at that moment got the better of him. Twisting the lid, he put the rim to his lips, and in one quick movement gulped the contents down. It was smooth and fiery like a good malt whisky, with a hint of syrup. He felt it warm his throat, stomach, then limbs, fingers and toes in a delicious unfurling wave. He looked around him. Passers-by still trudged by grim-faced, and the red buses looked as grimy as before; but inside he felt different – though he couldn’t quite put his finger on how. He turned down a cobbled alleyway. Thick flakes of snow tumbled down in the orange glow of an old street lamp. As he walked, they became larger, and the glow warmer and brighter. Suddenly he found himself lifted off his feet and drawn into their swirling midst. The street scene below became small. “Goodness!” he thought, “that must have been strong stuff”. But he had no time to rationalise further, before being overwhelmed by the wonder of what he saw. The fabled uniqueness of the (now saucer-sized) snowflakes was plain: a fabulous variety of fractal swirls, spokes, branches and crosses. Slowly Arthur became aware that these flakes were like people – which surprised and amazed him very much: each one unique, beautiful. And not just some people, but everyone. Even his landlady Mrs Thorpe, who he didn’t much like at all. Truly a troubling revelation. The next thing he knew, Arthur felt himself being drawn out of the lamplight and up above the parapets and gargoyles, until a cluster of spires rose into view. Amid the eddying snowflakes, their pointed shapes were transfigured. Pinpricks of light sprang from their tops, and as he watched, one by one these fiery points shot up into the night sky and exploded high above, like huge Roman candles. He hadn’t been to a firework display for a very long time, and this strange sight brought all those childhood memories right back. It was turning out to be a very strange evening indeed, he decided, as remnants of the smoky odour dispersed. He felt himself floating gently earthwards again. He then became aware of a warm flickering light, and turning, saw the small latticed window of an old pub. What felt like the crest of an invisible wave swept him through the window and into the midst of a raucous ceilidh. He had scarcely got his bearings before he was pulled into a spinning knot of dancers, blazing with a lava-like glow and beaming brightly. Arthur felt his usual social stiffness melt away as they embraced him, their heat enveloping him. It was like sinking into a warm water bed. For the first time in his life, he even found he could dance a few steps. It was the closest he had ever come to experiencing, not mere fun or happiness – but joy.
When he finally came to, Arthur found himself sitting on a coat in the snow, leaning against a cold college wall. In front of him he saw flakes still falling, the glow of a lit window, and a single spire piercing the night. Strange recollections were fading fast. But inside, something had changed. As he watched the people hurrying past, he felt an appreciation and compassion that he hadn’t known before. He saw that the spire was like a finger, pointing toward the possibility of truths ‘out there’ of which he’d been sceptical, or unaware. The window glow held the promise of a celebration that would not end at ‘throwing out time’. Through the chill night air floated the muffled strains of a college evensong. He got up, dug his hands into his pockets, shook his head and smiled to himself, and walked towards the music.
For BBC Upload. A seasonal tale of revelation and discovery.
Christmas once again is near us, do you feel its velvet tread Through the schmaltz and gaudy trappings, can you trace a different thread Join me as I ponder now a Narnia story, simple, spare A frame though which to view the season, see what we’ll uncover there.
Will I have a heart like Lucy, stepping through the wardrobe door One that’s open to enchantment, forest cones for wardrobe floor Hungry, ready to discover hidden world of wintry white A place beyond the ordinary, glimpsed through faith and not by sight?
Will I let the wonder of this Advent season work on me In the drear of dark December, will I pause, and look, and see? Lucy, spying glow of lamplight, tracked a path through wintry waste Will my eyes to Light be open, primed this Christmas wine to taste?
Just as Lucy, trusting, followed after a mysterious faun Ready to encounter stuff of miracle, of pale doubt shorn Like the humble shepherds in the gospel, used to muck and mire Will my heart be ready now to see the angels, hear the choir?
And as Lucy wisely left the portal open, chink of light So that she could navigate her way back home in dead of night Or like magi, journeying ‘cross foreign soil to seek the child Will I seek the One who stills my stormy heart so restless, wild?
For a real Lucy, Lewis wrote this much loved ‘fairy tale’ Making fresh a truth beyond, that might have stayed opaque and pale Every time I read, I feel my consciousness begin to shift Again, and so may I be changed by swift approaching Christ-child gift.
Broadcast on BBC Radio Leeds & Premier Christian Radio
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?
Broadcast on BBC Radio Leeds, Guernsey & Sussex/Surrey, and Premier Christian Radio