Easter poem

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

Valentines revisited

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

Winter Olympics poem

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’.

For BBC local radio. Image by Pexels at Pixabay

New year poem

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.

A Dream Among the Spires

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.

Image by pasja1000 at Pixabay

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?

Broadcast on BBC Radio Leeds, Guernsey & Sussex/Surrey, and Premier Christian Radio

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

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:

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