Friday, December 28, 2007

Facebook Theology

On Christmas night after the family celebration was over and the little people were in bed, I came home to join some friends for a cup of tea and a bit of late night chat. In the midst of the banter an argument developed between two friends relating to the midnight mass we had been too the previous evening. One person was dogmatically stating that it was wrong to talk in church and that if you were not taking part in the service, then the only thing you were allowed to do in the sacred space was sit quietly and pray. And the other who is well known for his capacity to talk disagreed. I wasn’t sure why everything in me disagreed with the silence argument, partly because it was being made so dogmatically, but now on reflection I realise I disagree with it, with every fibre of my being.

For two reasons ; firstly I believe church is or should be community and therefore should reflect every aspect of community. Hence there has to be space for everything in church. For talking , laughing , weeping , singing , shouting and yes also for silence.

But secondly I’ve realised that at the core of my theology I reject the sacred / secular argument. As I was thinking of a line on my facebook profile to reflect my belief, I was reminded of something a friend in Nashville said to me a long time ago, and it was simply this. “ There isn’t a secular molecule in the universe.”
And that’s why I found this idea that church is sacred and you can only be silent there so oppressive. I believe all of us were created in the image of God and that creation itself bears Gods fingerprints. Hopkins puts it well when he says,

”The world is charged with the grandeur of God/
It will flame out, like shining from shook foil”

What a fantastic image, and for me I find the sacred everywhere, in walks by the ever restless sea , sitting in contemplation in the old monastic sites of Ireland. Watching the West Wing, gathering with friends round a dinner table to break bread, drink wine, lean in and listen to each other’s lives. Even two friends sitting by a fire with a cup of herbal tea can be sacramental. I don’t always or even often find it in church. But that’s fine. The older I get the more I find God in unexpected places – sometimes even in my own life.

Right now after 4 days of sickness I've had a piece of toast and am sitting by the fire, listening to the soundtrack from Once. Feels pretty good to me.

M

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Leaping back from the mockingbird

I'm back from the mockingbird and simply wanted to say - Have a blessed Christmas wherever and whoever you celebrate it with. Heres a little seasonal Buechner.

Pax Christi Tecum

M


So hallowed and Gracious is the time - these lines from the first scene of Hamlet in a sense say it all. Marcellus is walking on the cold battlements of Elsinore speaking to his companions of the time of Jesus Birth - its a hallowed time he says - a holy time - a time in which life grows still like the surface of a river so that we can look down into it and see glimmering in its depths something precious , timeless , other. And also a gracious time - a time we cannot bring about it is a time that comes upon us as grace - as a free and unbidden gift from God as we celebrate his presence amongst us. At Christmas time it is hard for even the unbeliever not to believe in something. Peace on earth , goodwill to men ; a dream of innocence that is good to hold onto even if it is only a dream ; the mystery of being a child ; the possibility of hope.

Monday, December 17, 2007

The end of a Journey

I’m sitting by a fire in old London town. The temperature outside is officially below freezing and O Brother Where art thou, is on TV. This stage of the journey comes to an end though the future is as yet unwritten. I look forward to being home and lighting a fire and having a few friends round. We will lean in, with a glass of wine and listen to our lives and the stories they hold. But for a brief taster the last 4 months have included ……….

27000 miles by airplane (I have a forest to plant)
4000 miles by train, bus, taxi, Tuk-Tuk, motorbike, elephant, bicycle and foot.
4 Continents, 9 countries, 16 Books, 945 photographs,
http://www.flickr.com/photos/14790076@N04/

Lots of people and cultural joy including;

Paris Je t’aime. Le Coup de Monde, fresh croissants, Versailles, Buddha Bar, Bastille food markets, museums that make an impression, Notre Dame, St Sulpice, Canard au miel, good wine and cycling through the Bois de Boulogne laughing like children with the mullingtons …… oh yeah

Nashvegas, city and people of my heart – if it was near the sea it would be damned near perfect. But anytime spent there is always a blessing and it can still surprise you and offer new possibilities and friendships to explore.

New Zealand – breaking bread with Mike and Rose Riddell. Remove your shoes because this is holy ground where both body and soul are nourished and loved. And the Coromandel peninsula wasn’t bad either, not forgetting the Good Dr when he finally made it from Tahiti.

Australia – Catching up with friends and family, Manly Beach, the ferry, drinks on the Opera House terrace.

Vietnam. The pollution and motorbikes of Hanoi, the glory of spending a night on a boat in Halong Bay. The charm of Hoi An, Ancient Cham Palaces and then Jungle Beach – a week in my own private heaven reading the Psalms and finding prayer as natural as breathing. Saigon, Vietnam war relics and tunnels. Mekong Delta Trip – coconut candy, floating markets, eating snake and crossing into Cambodia.
Cambodia, the water festival in Phnom Penh, the royal palaces. The horror of The Killing fields chills you to the bone and then the glory of Angkor Wat leaves you breathless. That first morning walking across the causeway to the temple, still water with lilies floating on either side and the suns first rays giving shape to the ancient stone walls. Unforgettable. As was the road to Thailand, the boulevard of broken backsides.

Thailand – chilling out in Bangkok and then heading to Chiang Mai. Bookshops, Cookery courses, fantastic foot massage, markets and falafel. Trekking into the villages on the hills, elephant riding and white-water bamboo rafting. I wrote this in the van on the way back

Elephants and Waterfalls.

This morning

Riding on elephants in the dappled green sunlight of a tropical forest.

The Mahout starts to sing quietly,

and the elephant trumpets softly and then walks on .

Stillness falls and it is a holy sacramental moment.

In the afternoon I see a rainbow in a waterfall.

On days like this I believe.


Singapore – Shiny shopping centres and afternoon tea at Raffles – well its gotta be done.

And that is just a few of the highlights. I’ve been privileged to meet many amazing people, learn new perspectives on the world, been amazed by the kindness of strangers and the prevalence of wireless internet. I’ve seen more sunrises than in the previous year put together, prayed more, read more, been surrounded by Grace and had some great food (even the snake wasn’t bad).

At the end of it I’m happier, relaxed and comfortable in my own skin than I’ve been for a long time. I am who I am and I’m happy with that. Whatever I do next the job will not define me and that is a strangely comforting notion. I’m thankful for home and friends – coming back to old friends and new life and long walks on the beach, turf fires, red wine and frosty mornings.

I’m glad to know you all and look forward to sharing our lives and stories in person very soon. In the meantime no missive would be complete without a quote from Mr Frederick Buechner, indeed the motto I try to live my life by.

LISTEN to your life. SEE it for the fathomless mystery that it is. In the boredom and pain of it no less than in the excitement and gladness: TOUCH, TASTE, SMELL your way to the holy and hidden heart of it because in the last analysis all moments are key moments, and life itself is grace. Frederick Buechner

All is well and all is well and all manner of things shall be well.

May Blessing surround you at this hallowed and gracious time of year.

Mark

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Leaping with the Mockingbird till Christmas

As explained below I'm taking part in the advent Blog below ..... I don't really have the time and energy while traveling to keep 2 blogs going so for the next few weeks I will be appearing only at the mockingbird (click on the title above or below to go straight there) . But in one and only act of duplication - my friends at Moot in their service this past Sunday ended it with an extract from T.S.Elliots 4 Quartets and it seemed somehow appropriate to the season.

With the drawing of this Love and the voice of this Calling

We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
Through the unknown, unremembered gate
When the last of earth left to discover
Is that which was the beginning;
At the source of the longest river
The voice of the hidden waterfall
And the children in the apple-tree
Not known, because not looked for
But heard, half-heard, in the stillness
Between two waves of the sea.
Quick now, here, now, always�
A condition of complete simplicity
(Costing not less than everything)
And all shall be well and
All manner of thing shall be well
When the tongues of flames are in-folded
Into the crowned knot of fire
And the fire and the rose are one.


Blessings of the Season Upon Y'all

m


Friday, November 30, 2007

The Mockingbirds Leap - A Blog for Advent

‘beauty and grace are performed whether or not we will or sense them. the least we can do is try to be there.’ annie dillard


As the season of advent is almost upon us I wanted to draw your attention to a special advent blog that my good friend Glenn has come up with for the season. He has gathered a wide variety of people together, of which I'm priveleged to be one, and asked us all to be attentive to the world around us during advent. It's an experiment in spiritual attention to the presence of God all around us in every day and we do it during Advent as a preparation for the coming of Christ at Christmas. His prayer is that we will all be impacted by the immense presence of God in the world. It begins, and maybe ends, in simply witnessing to an experience of grace in our day. It may simply be the statement of an address or location, or it may be an extended meditation or a poem, it may be a photograph or a piece of video, whatever it is that speaks a blessing into our lives during Advent, bearing testimony to it on the blog, and we'll see if we can accumulate a daily witness until Christmas Day itself. The days of the Advent season provide ample time for good habits of attention to take hold and grow in our lives.

Click on the title above to go straight to the Blog and feel free to add your own comments as we enter advent.

blessings

M

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Angkor – A Wonder of The World !




Cambodia, land of contrasts. After the horror of the Killing Fields comes the wonder of Angkor. It is the most amazing man-made complex I have ever seen. Partly the Vastness of it – hundreds of temples and bits of temples spread for miles around. And not just any ruins but amazing fantastically intricate carvings and vast temples that would have held thousands. Angkor Wat – walking across the causeway too it is a mystical experience. Its vast – part of the biggest Religious site in the world.
Some of it is overrun with tour groups, but at some of the more remote temples you can explore corridor after corridor on your own, stumbling across long forgotten altars to who knows what God. Although the Khmers were Buddhist, they had a strong Indian influence and many of the carvings have Hindu gods and goddess’s on them.

And then there is Ta Prom – once a vast temple that had 80,000 people working in it. While many of the temples have been restored this one has been left exactly as it was when the French explorers rediscovered it in the 1920’s. It has been invaded by nature and much of it has crumbled, while the walls have trees growing out of them and there are piles of rubble everywhere. It’s a good place to act out your Angelina Jolie fantasies ( no not those ones Mullan- this is a family blog), as it was used to film parts of Tombraider, or for my generation being on the set of Indiana Jones.

Its just stunning, its incredible. It was built in the 11th and 12th Century and supported a population of 1 million at a time when London was a small town of 50,000. I’m also betting that the water and sewage facilities in Angkor would have been superior too. I would put it on my list of things to see before you die. It will not disappoint.

And so tomorrow I leave this land of contrasts which showcases the best and worst of humanity. The ancient splendour and the modern horror.

Monday, November 26, 2007

The Killing Fields and S21




Today I visited S21 prison where thousands were tortured and then the Killing fields of Choeung EK where tens of thousands of Cambodians were killed by the Pol Pot regime between 1975 and 1979.

Sometimes words cannot convey all we want them to. Sometimes the horror is so much that we find ourselves mumbling Kyrie Eleison – Lord Have mercy …. On ourselves as well as the pitiful victims of the Khmer Rouge.

Today it is a strangely peaceful site with quiet waters flowing past the green trees and the faint sound of children playing in the distance. It’s hard to believe that I’m standing on a mass grave of thousands of people, many of whom were bludgeoned to death to save the price of a bullet. In the memorial on the site thousands of skulls are stacked in a glass tower, as a memory and tribute to the unnamed and unknown who died here.

We breathe in and try to comprehend what happened here. Some are silent , some quietly weep. I find the words spoken to me as a child, somewhat comforting … Our Father who art in heaven , hallowed be thou name …. I repeat the prayer as I walk around the site, though I struggle with Thy will be done on earth.

Kyrie Eleison, Lord have mercy

Christe Eleison. Christ have mercy on us all.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Cao Dai - its like Ikon but with better robes !




Went to the Cao Dai temple in Vietnam. They are an interesting religion - its a mix of about 6 western and eastern religions and philosophies- basically take the bits you like and leave out those you dont. Lots of Buddhist influence but at one point they also had their own Pope and Cardinals. They are also a big fan of Victor Hugo and have a statue to him inside the temple. If only I had brought a copy of Petes'book with me I could have left it with them and some day we could have a statue of Rollins in beside Victor Hugo. Currently they have 3 million followers.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Culture - The Ties That Bind

In Vietnam, perhaps the most culturally different place I’ve ever been to and yet it makes me think of home more. Suddenly the music of Duke Special and Foy Vance is what I listen to while lounging in my beach hut in shorts on a hot afternoon. And with the music is memory’s of cold clear autumn days walking down by the beach or through the forest kicking through those yellow leaves. Of a clean crispness in the air , of woolly jumpers and turf fires burning and warm drinks. Coming in out of the cold with flushed cheeks but feeling alive.

When it comes down to it I’m a northern hemisphere man. I like the mildness of our climate and the lifestyle that goes with it. And it is strange to think these thoughts while listening to the waves crash on a golden beach and eating some dragon fruit and loving it. And its not home sickness, because I don’t want to go home. I am loving Vietnam but perhaps, that’s part of the paradox of travel. As well as learning about other cultures, you also learn the importance of your own culture. You realise how much a part of it, you are and how it has shaped you. You also learn a lot about your self and who you really are, and also what you want in life and what you don’t know. I will expand on this more in later posts but sitting in my beach hut in a hammock gives me a lot of contemplation time.

I’ve also been reading through the Psalms this week. The Blues of the Bible. Davids’ writings ranging from unrestrained praise to shouting at God. Honestly not sure what to make of it right now – its hard and honest and raw and dull and wonderful and annoying and profound. But walking on the beach a lot it is perhaps a phrase of my least favourite apostle Paul which constantly springs to mind. In a rare poetic turn when talking to the men of Athens he describes God as one in whom we live and move and have our being. And watching the sun rise and the rain fall over a deserted beach, watching the stars from my beach hut and then falling asleep to the rhythm of the ocean ….. I think I’ve begun to understand that phrase like never before, perhaps even for the first time.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Jungle Beach




Travelling, travelling and thinking. Time to wonder about life and what it is I actually like and want to do with it. And I want to create, I want to make things out of nothing. Make ideas come alive in the mind and imagination of myself, and also those who will read them. I want to love and be loved and to rediscover the joy and wonder of my very existence. There is a young girl here from Australia on her gap year. She still has a sense of wonder about everything around her, the certainty of opinion of the young but also the sheer joy at the sun, at the rain , at the electric in the air as it seemed a storm was building. It’s refreshing to be around that na├»ve but wonderful joy at her own existence.

Jungle Beach is a good place to contemplate these things. It’s a little no-frills resort at the end of a peninsula. Accommodation is wonderfully basic beach huts. One side more or less open to the elements and your bed is a mattress on a bamboo platform. The sound of waves crashing on the beach gently lulls you to sleep. There is nothing to do here but relax, walk on the beach and eat the fantastic food on offer. Its about £9 a night and that includes three meals a day and all the coffee, lemon water and drinking water you can handle. Tomorrow I may feel adventurous and climb the mountain to find the waterfall and go swimming. Or I may sit and continue reading a book that I am disciplining myself not to read too fast. It’s “The Shadow of the Wind,” by Carlos Ruiz Zafon and he writes with an unrestrained beauty and the whole story displays his love of literature and storytelling. Its mesmerising. Buy it. Read it . Love it .

And so what next in my own story ? Am thinking a lot about culture , reading the Psalms and a lot of other stuff but cant quite articulate where it is taking me yet. Maybe tomorrow. Right Now I'm getting the overnight Bus to Saigon because the train was cancelled. And there are some new photos on the flickr .

M

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Dragons and Karaoke




Halong Bay

Shrouded in mist, shrouded in myth, shrouded in mystery. Halong Bay is an incredible place. As you leave the harbour in a Chinese Junk type boat it looks like an impenetrable wall rising out of the sea, but as you get closer you realise it is hundreds of islands and the boat happily sails through them. Some of them rise majestically hundreds of metres above you and you can see why it is the home of many Vietnamese myths and legends. The main one tells us that long ago the people of the land of Vietnam were under attack from a foreign invader and they appealed to heaven for help. So a mother dragon and her children came to help them, dropping jewels and jade into the sea. Those jewels became the islands we see today and the new defences helped the people stay safe and form the country of Vietnam. The Dragons were so impressed they also set up home in the bay.

I wonder what the dragons made of our Karaoke on board the Kangaroo tours boat. Probably not much but we had a great time, It rounded of a good day visiting a cave full of stalactites, cruising around the bay and having a great dinner on board the boat. What goes on tour stays on tour but all I can say is that my rendition of Brown Eyed Girl followed by I Cant Help Falling in Love with you, had the crowd screaming for more. But ever onward after one more night out in Hanoi with the Aussie girls from the boat it’s a 16-hour train ride to Danang.

Oh Yeah and lots more photos on Flickr - click the title above to go straight there.

M

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Hanoi Hello

Well what can one say about the capital of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam. It's big and dirty and full of life. A kaleidoscope of vendors and food cooked on the pavement and more use of car horns than even Jeremy Clarkson would approve of. It is a huge cultural change from New Zealand and Australia and I am still processing what I am seeing . There is poverty and pollution but also time. People are friendly , even if they are trying to rip you off they do it with a smile. The biggest adventure is crossing the road. The only rule of traffic in Hanoi seems to be use your horn with abandon at all times and in all places. Although red lights and one way streets exist - it is only in theory.To cross the road one steps out slowly into the flow of cars, motorbike xe oms and bicycles and walks slowly across the road. You walk slowly to allow the drivers time to see you and take avoiding action. So far it has worked well.

Although it's vibrant I'm keen to get out of the city and into the countryside. Tomorrow is an early start and then a boat trip around Halong Bay with some Kayaking thrown in and after that it should get more chilled for a week or two in rural areas and on beaches. So internet access may be limited but I will do what I Can. No photos this time - the promise of wireless internet turned out to be a 15 year old PC with the Letters almost worn off the keyboard.

But you know what its 28 degrees and so much better than working ......

Be well wherever you are .

blessings m

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Westward Bound

Heading to Singapore today and then Vietnam tomorrow. Had a great week in Sydney catching up with people. There are new photos on the flickr site - click on the title above to go straight there. Not sure what the internet access will be like as I travel but will update as much as possible. In the meantime as a friend reminded me the other day, 'the journey is the destination.' And onward I go.

m

Monday, October 22, 2007

As it is in Heaven / New Zealand



sometimes so is it on earth. If anyone I've met embodies the hospitality of the gospels it is Mike and Rose Riddell. A sojourn with them is always a blessed time when one feels loved and affirmed, and empowered to dream dreams and live the creative life. Tonight we had a truly incarnational meal - them,me and the Dr of Higgins.

It was incarnational - food and conversation being the very stuff of life itself and we shared stories of sorrow and laughter , shared dreams and talked about what the life more abundant that Jesus promised us might look like. One thing Mike said was that he thought I was becoming more comfortable in my own skin. I think he is right and even in the few short weeks here I have felt comfortable with the life choices I've made and confirmed in giving up the job and finding time to dream it all up again. There is an old aboriginal proverb that says "He who stops dreaming is truly lost." I think i was on the way to being lost in the job I was doing and had almost stopped dreaming but now it is back and I'm feeling good.

We talked also about celebrity and how ordinary lives get lost and devalued. Every day I'm learning a little to live the Buechner Quote above - because all moments are key moments and life itself is Grace.

We also realised that though it was Gareth who introduced me to Mike 4 years ago, that it was my organising of a bus to greenbelt 10 years ago which had allowed Gareth to first meet Mike. We were all part of the fabric of each other.

Sitting by the Riddells swimming pool with a glass of whiskey was like a little taste of eternity. Receiving Grace and being empowered to go out and share that Grace with others. A glimpse of who I want to be and a little taste of heaven here in Middle earth. Tomorrow its on to Australia to catch up with old friends and family. In the meantime let me leave you with the words of New Zealand poet James K Baxter.

Miracles are needed
Miracles of nourishment
Miracles of sharing
Miracles of healing
But as we may suppose that
the age of miracles is past,
though sudden miracles
surround us like blackberries
in the bushes in autumn !

JKB

This week I've enjoyed the miracle of friendship , hospitality and Grace and I thank God that I'm alive.

blessings

m

Friday, October 19, 2007

The Judge,her lover , the Dr and the journalist.




Hallo from New Zealand. I do apologize for the lack of blogging but it thats pesky real world getting in the way. Suffice to say Paris was wonderful , Nashville was sublime and New Zealand is currently everything one could wish for. We have spent most of the last week at a beach house on the Coromandel with Judge Riddell , her lover and the Good Dr.

The weather was irrelvant as we indulged in good wine, food and conversation , interspersed with long walks on deserted beaches. Much was discussed , many world issues resolved and a taste of heaven was enjoyed by all. And urged on by my geeky friends ( you know who you are ) I have opened a flickr account so that you can see what I've been up to so click on the title above or follow the link below to see the photographic evidence of the trip so far.

blessings m

http://www.flickr.com/photos/14790076@N04/

Monday, September 24, 2007

Art or Not and a little bit of unadulterated fun!




So yesterday we were cycling in the Bois de Boulogne - its not often I start a blog with that line. Its the old hunting grounds of the french Kings now a huge park on the edge of Paris. Stu , Keli and I hired bikes and as we went racing of into the trees were swept by a wave of childlike euphoria - cue screams and laughter and some dodgy cycling in and out of the trees. Ah it was marvellous and then we ventured into the Bagatelle Botanic gardens where in the midst of a picture perfect garden replete with roses and fountains , there was a free classical music concert going on in the Orangerie ...... so we sat outside in the sun and were content.

I've also been to rugby matches ( least said about that the better) , Notre Dame ( so far no justifiable homicide of american tourists clutching copies of the Da Vinci Code but give me time) and the Louvre and hence my question of the day .....

What makes a work of art great ? The two photos above are works of art by Leonardo Da Vinci - one the Mona Lisa is world famous - always has a cue around it and is frankly quite disappointing close up . I much preferred the other picture of an unknown noblewoman from Naples hanging in the corridor outside with no crowds near it as they all rush past to see the Mona Lisa. So who decided what is great and what is not and why is one better than the other ..... answers on a postcard please ? Anyway am off to the Louvre again - must be all that french food .

avoir un jour splendide

m

Sunday, September 16, 2007

For Sausage Baps and St George



Yesterday I had my last sausage bap of the year at St georges market before heading off on my travels and so in tribute .......

Its a little bit of heaven - a place where both adults and children can be happy. Its sometimes a little cold in the old victorian building but the light is always good. Even on a rainy day it feels bright , ethereal and set apart. A world of music and good food. The smell of bacon and sausages cooking over at the Mossbrook Farm stand. Trevor is always smiling as he hands over the sausage baps while the girls make the coffee - the spitting of the grill mixing with the hissing of the Italian coffee machine.

But ultimately its a place of friendship. A space to catch up and enjoy the company of many friends both old and new. And a space to wander and buy your food for the coming week. I cant help but love it. If heaven is a little like St Georges I'll be happy there.

and in honour of Padraig a Saintly Haiku

St Georges Market
Children Crying , bacon frying
and I am happy.

blessings

m

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Discuss

H.L. Mencken said, "The capacity of human beings to bore one another seems to be vastly greater than that of any other animals. Some of their most esteemed inventions have no other apparent purpose, for example, the dinner party of more than two, the epic poem, and the science of metaphysics."

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Contemplating Merton

Thanks to Mike over on the Moot site for reminding me about a book I read a few years ago but as is the curse of men had forgotten most of it. I love this quote but also check out the Moot website where he is sharing some others over the next little while

"Our vocation is not simply to be, but to work together with God in the creation of our own life, our own identity, our own destiny. We are free beings and children of God. This means to say that we should not passively exist, but actively participate in His creative freedom, in our own lives, and in the lives of others by choosing the truth. To put it better, we are even called to share with God the work of creating the truth of our identity. We can evade this responsibility by playing with masks, and this pleases us because it can appear at times to be a free and creative way of living. It is quite easy, it seems, to please everyone. But in the long run, the cost and sorrow come very high. To work out our identity in God, which the Bible calls "working out our salvation," is a labour that requires sacrifice and anguish, risk and many tears. It demands close attention to reality at every moment, and great fidelity to God, as God reveals Gods self, obscurely, in the mystery of each new situation."

Thomas Merton. New Seeds of Contemplation.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Compassion

"Compassion is that sometimes fatal capacity for feeling what its like to live inside somebody else's skin. It is the Knowledge that there can never really be any peace and joy for me until there is peace and joy finally for you too."

Frederick Buechner . Beyond Words.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Communication and Beauty

I used to make a living from writing words and broadcasting both mine and others words across radio, tv and the internet. I know how to impart complex stories to an audience of millions ....... And yet,when it comes to real life its amazing how we all struggle to communicate what we really think or to hear what friends are really saying. How friendships can be full of misapprehensions and even fear of what someone may mean or not mean. Sometimes we judge each other directly on what we say , sometimes we listen to asides and decide that has more truth than asking the person directly what they think about something. Sometimes we are afraid to challenge others ....sometimes we are right and sometimes we are wrong. And we all find it so hard to admit when we are wrong. (mea culpa)

But surely there has to be a better way. The Moot Community in London lives by a rhythm of live through presence, acceptance,creativity,balance,accountability and hospitality. I'm working at integrating those rhythms into my life and its acceptance I think I need to work on the most ...... we defined it as
"We desire to accept both ourselves,and other people as the are,and to allow people to say what they believe without fear of judgement. We want to create a safe space where people feel at home and welcomed.We hope to learn from all those in and outside the community.'

I'm trying to do that but its very much a work in progress and I hope people can bear with me as I practice.

And finally beauty - the summer here in our little island has been terrible but when we get a glimpse of beauty its is sometimes worth the wait. Last night I was heading out to see a friend who was farm sitting in the midst of the County Down. Driving over the Craigantlet hills , the sunset was a glorious fiery clouded Turner painting - I could see for miles right down to where the mountains of Mournes were shrouded in mist. CS Lewis used to walk in these hills and its thought that a lot of the geography of Narnia is based on what he could see from here . And why not - Last night it certainly felt magical . Equally today - the sun shone and after so many days of rain the sky seemed somehow bluer , the few clouds whiter and the air freah and clean. Cycling through the forest at the back of Sanctus Boscus today all I could feel was joy ....perhaps a glimpse of what Chesterton said was that "sunrise of wonder" - the joy and wonder at our own existence .

Today I believe.

blessings ...

"The end of all seeking is purity of heart - a clear unobstructed vision of the true state of affairs,an intuitive grasp of ones own inner reality as anchored or rather lost in God. " Thomas Merton . The Wisdom of the Desert.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Any Hints gratefully recieved

Am planning a little sojourn through South east Asia later in the year ...... I'll have about 7 weeks to play with from start of November till about 18th December.....

Countries I'm thinking of passing through are Vietnam, Cambodia , Laos and Thailand. I could pretend that I'm a traveller and not a tourist. But the reality is any westerner there is a tourist and while I hope to spend a lot of time sitting on beaches reading and writing - yes I want to see some sights as well .

I've never been to that part of the world so any suggestions on things I shouldnt miss will be gratefully received.

M

Friday, July 06, 2007

Sweet Sweet Endorphins

After spending so long looking after cyclists in the last month I decided it was time to find out what all the hype was about. So I borrowed a friends bike and had a glorious cycle along the coast from Sanctus Boscus. Only ten miles in total but it was a splendid windswept seascape that made me smile just looking at. There was rain, there was wind in my face , there were breaks in the cloud and patches of sunlight racing over the water changing the colour from blue to green…..and very few people around. Just me and the dogwalkers, god bless them. But its one of those things – you know exercise is good , you know its good to get out into the sacrament of creation and yet when you finally get round to it – you are still surprised. CS Lewis said people do not need to be taught so much as reminded. And as usual he’s right.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Free at Last





A good news story for once. Alan Johnston the BBC's Gaza reporter has been freed after 16 weeks in captivity. Very happy for him and for all my former colleagues who have been campaigning for his release.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Ah Belfast



There is something beautiful about northern hemisphere summer nights. Driving back into Belfast late evening and the rain of earlier has given way to a clear blue sky though some mist still caresses the city. Out of it buildings and church spires emerge filling my soul with an unaccustomed and unexpected joy. This place is and always will be home. Many people have looked on Belfast with love but few have written about it better than Robert Mcliam wilson in Eureka Street.

"It is only as the dawn begins to break, if you stand up high, you can see the city as one thing, as a single phenomenon. Ringed by it's circles of Black Mountain, cliff and plateau. The sea and dark bay lapping right up to the foot of the metropolis. Belfast is Rome with more hills, Atlantis raised from the sea. From everywhere you look the streets glitter like jewels, like small streams of stars.
But in the buildings and streets a dark hundred, thousand, million, ten million stories, as vivid and complex as your own, reside. I think of my city's conglomerate of bodies, of spines, kidneys, hearts, livers and lungs.
Belfast.
Only a jumble of streets. Only a few big bumps in the ground.
Only a whisper of God."

And sometimes a whisper is enough. On nights like this I believe.

M

Saturday, June 30, 2007

Church and State

"Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from religious conviction." Blaise Pascal.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

For Willow





Your big in Nashville !

Monday, June 25, 2007

Jetlagged but Glad



I'm back in the homeland - slept for 13 hours last night. Tired but happy after the cycle trip and then the good people of Nashvegas - they make my soul feel good every time. more later after some more sleep.

blessings

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Monday, June 18, 2007

Myths and Truth ? with a quote for papa Chambers



Myths and Stories have always been important to me. The best definition of myth came from a teacher friend of mine who asked her class to write an explanation of what a myth was. One little girl came up with the answer....... Myths may not be true on the outside but they are true on the inside !

I've never heard better and in my current post-evangelical attempt at faith it helps me in my reading of the Bible to still access truth within the words without having to contort like crazy to make every syllable be the literal word of God.

So a year or so ago I was in Edinburgh at the book festival with Nick , Ali and Gail. We all squeezed into one of the tents to hear Jeanette Winterson speak about her latest book - Weight . Its part of the Canongate series of established authors retelling ancient myths. This particular one is the story of Atlas and Heracles. Winterson is a brilliant public speaker in her bluff northern way and made some extremely profound points. She even inspired me enough to buy the book but its taken me the best part of a year to pick it up and it was worth the wait.

Its a book I would describe as quietly profound in the midst of her trademark storytelling. It mixes the myth with some biographical stuff about her own upbringing by adoptive pentecostal parents in the north of england.

Loved it - would recommend it - click on the post title to go to her website where you will also find some provocative articles as well as all her books. I'll leave you with the 2 quotes from the book which stopped me in my tracks and demanded that i read them again allowing the meaning to sink in.

"My mother said we all have our cross to bear. She paraded hers like a medieval martyr,notched,gouged,bleeding. She Believed in Christ , but not in his cross bearing qualities. She seemed to forget that he had borne the cross so that we dont have to. Is life a gift or a burden ?

and

"Breathe in. Breathe Out. Oxygen is carcinogenic and likely puts a limit on our life span. It would be unwise though, to try to extend life by not breathing at all."

blessings

mark

And so its over






The Guys cycled hundreds of miles , Allen and I drove about 3000 miles and tens of thousands of pounds has been raised for the biggest faith based regeneration project in Ireland. It was exhausting , exhilirating and in a quiet way quite profound. We learned how and how not to exist as a community , how to look after and support each other and how to achieve more than we thought we could. Its been an honour and a privielege to be involved. Here are a few random photos - click on the post heading to go to glenns blog for many more . Thanks to everyone for their support , sponsorship and interest. I'm now in Nashville where I intend to sleep until my name changes to Rip van Father.

Blessings

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Click here for some video of the tour so far

HI Guys ,

A little of what we have done over the last few days. Tomorrow we head for Florida.

m

Friday, June 08, 2007

More Cycling Photos from Day1-4


ARE U SURE THIS IS THE ROAD ?



THE BEST LAID PLANS OF MICE AND GLENN ........


QUICK GET THE BIKES ON THE CAR, I HEAR BANJO MUSIC !


ONE MAN AND HIS MARS BAR


WE HAVE A VAN METER DOWN


SERMON FROM THE ALMOST REV HAMILTON


Today we head for Atlanta - more adventures and photos will follow !

Thursday, June 07, 2007

CYCLING BLOG CLICK HERE



OK the cycling madness is well under way - Day 4 was the toughest so far - 86 miles on the Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina. 80 degrees fahrenheit and so many hills. The guys did incredibly well - this is the team at the very top of the parkway having cycled 73 miles and ascended more than 5000 feet. I'm very proud of them all. Click on the link above for our official blog and of course its all for a good cause - East Belfast Mission and there is of course still time to donate.

www.justgiving.com/markmccleary

blessings

m

Friday, June 01, 2007

Free at Last Free Free Free




This is my first day of Unemployment. As of Midnight I'm no longer employed by a large media corporation. It was a pretty good ten year relationship we had - with the ups and downs of any relationship. Perks were some good travel , getting into places I never could as a member of the public , meeting Prime Ministers , Presidents and Royalty and a few great sport freebies. There was also danger , riots , wars etc and seeing the best and worst that humanity has to offer. All in all its been a great ride ...met some amazing people , had fun but there comes a time when you need to move on for the good of your soul. And so we have agreed to go our own ways and hopefully still be friends at the end of it.

And so I am a free man - no regrets though a strange feeling that I'm losing part of what has been my identity for almost a third of my life.

On the train into Philly and discussing with Lee - what should my answer be now when folks that I meet at a party or whatever ask that perennial question - So what do you do ?

Answers on a postcard please ..... best answer will be used for the summer.

Blessings of the unemployed upon you.

m

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Its Hot here in Margaritaville


Sitting on the smitheys porch in philadelphia .... Lee is making Margaritas - there are tortilla chips and fresh Guacamole on hand . Its hot but it dont get much better than this.

The great Cycle adventure starts Sunday - in the meantime - another margarita - dont mind if I do.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Because the sacred is Everywhere


"If a boy comes into a room, with a packet of twenty cigarettes - and if there are nineteen other people in the room - and if he gives each one a cigarette, and takes the last cigarette for himself - then, I believe, the empty cigarette packet is a sacred object, a kind of sacramental, containing the life of God, as a water-pipe contains water. I would not be surprised if it became radioactive, and shone in the dark, on account of its connection with the Love of the Many." James K Baxter

My good friend Mr Riddell introduced me to the work of New Zealand poet, minor saint and controversial visonary James K Baxter a few years back with his play Jerusalem Jerusalem. I love this Baxter quote and my day today was made sacred by having lunch with a few friends , praying quietly in an old monastic site and then sharing the tuesday table of love , food and conversation which is Team Fury.

Nothing spectacular but in its way sacramental and filled with the love of many.

Keep shining in the everyday.

blessings

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Show me the Money

Yes its a blatant bit of fundraising but its the first I've ever done on this site and wont be repeated. I'm leaving my job this week and therefore have a bit of time on my hands. The first thing I'm doing with that time is heading on a fundraising trip to america for East Belfast Mission. I shall be looking after 10 nutters who are cycling up to 1000 miles in ten days.

Why ? Well because its an amazing project we all belive in - working in a very disadvantaged interface area of Belfast with kids , elderly , homeless and the unemployed. I blogged about it in february so scroll down and have a read .....

But in the meantime if you have a few quid to spare click on the link above or below and spread the love .

http://www.justgiving.com/markmccleary

blessings in advance

m

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Providence




Its Sunday evening and its feels like the calm between 2 storms. Next week will be my busiest work week of the year - last week was probably the second busiest setting up for a huge news day involving all sorts of heads of state.

However there is always room for a few other things in life so I saw a fantastic Duke Special concert and finally managed to get a new painting (PROVIDENCE) framed and on the wall. Its by my good friend Rob Bancroft from Nashville - click on the title to go straight to his website for some other amazing stuff.

So Sunday evening after a day of storms the sun is shining and I've been walking along the beach at Sanctus Boscus. Now back and sitting on the sofa while the rays of the setting sun are reflecting on the painting and I'm reflecting on it..... wondering about providence ... Is it true or just wishful thinking ...in a week where some days I've been too busy to eat but yet been strangely content - other friends have been struggling with life ..... are we both receiving providence in different ways ..... or is it only providence when you do get what you want, when you are provided for and dont struggle. I dont know - I dont have the answers for those who are struggling But ....

Maybe a belief in providence is just wishful thinking but then as FB would say sometimes wishing is the wings truth comes true on , sometimes the truth is what sets us wishing for it.

Blessings

Monday, April 23, 2007

Happy Places - a shameless act of plagiarism






My good friend the arborist and writer Mr Chambers had an interesting post on his blog today about a happy place - follow the link above to see his and read his thoughts. However I liked the idea of where is your happy place - presumably a beautiful place and what effect does it have it on you.

For me it is the old monastic site of Nendrum ..... A monastery was first built on the site in the fifth century - by St Mochaoi in the 5th century - this rests on a story about St. Patrick written c. AD 900. It is on an island just of the west coast of Strangford Lough ...... you drive across a little causeway to get to it. It is for me one of the most peaceful places on earth and one I visit as often as i can. It does feel sacred the ground somehow still retains the memory of 1000 years of prayer on the site. On a summer evening it is place of rare beauty with great views over the lough from all sides. One new years day we travelled down and the frost was thick on the ground but in the winter sun we were all moved to stillness and contemplation by it. As some good friends recently reminded me on a sunday evening - this is a place where it is good to

Be Still and Know that I am God
Be Still and Know
Be Still
Be

Sometimes when doubt - that shadow cast by faith threatens to blot out the light I go there and BE and it sees me through the night.

blessings

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

When the way is not a way but a place


The Peace of Wild Things

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children's lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.


— Wendell Berry


On Monday night a few of us went out canoeing or paddling as my more experienced friends call it. We did about 6 miles around some of the islands of Strnagford Lough. It was incredibly peaceful , almost outside of time. The sunsetting sky was sublime - pinks and purples poking through the grey clouds gradually darkening and Venus rising in the night sky joined by a few stards as we finished our paddle. We felt at peace and discussed the journey of life we were all on and how what we understand of faith is not sermons or singing but rather journeying with a group of people through the sacred moment. It was a beautiful evening and reminded me of an old Wendell berry Poem - the title of todays post is also I think from a berry poem and it perfectly summed up my mood. So try it - get out to the wild places , rest in the Grace of the world and be free.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Words That were spoken to me as a Child



So a week has passed. By the curious way we number our lives I'm a year older. I've also been in hopsital for a routine knee op on my cruciate ligament. It feels good thanks but its always interesting going into hospital because having a general anaesthetic theres always that little doubt at the back of your mind about the danger of it all. As I was being injected with the magic fluid to make me sleep , the only words I could think of were those spoken to me as a child and still my refuge and comfort. And so like a little child I went to sleep saying the Lords Prayer and woke up an hour later in recovery with it still on my lips.

Maybe we do have to become "as a little child" to see the kingdom of heaven.

blessings

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Mordja Amari Boradja (those who lose dreaming are lost)

So, many things have come and gone since the last post. Life has been lived , people have loved and hurt one another and time is still contagious. I've been feeling trapped in a bit of a rut , working too much and feeling frustrated by some situations and powerless in others. In the midst of this I was reminded by Chris of the old aboriginal quote above and wondered if that was part of my feeling ...... I've been so much into a routine that I've stopped dreaming and stopped taking risks. So heres to taking a few risks in the weeks ahead and to dreaming dreams in daylight. Thanks also to Chris for this quote from Jean vanier which I leave with you. It spoke to more than you know .

To laugh is to risk appearing the fool
To weep is to risk appearing sentimental
To reach out is to risk involvement
To disclose feelings is to risk disclosing your true self
To place your dreams before the crowd is to risk their love
To live is to risk dying
To hope is to risk despair
To try is to risk failure
But the greatest hazard is to risk nothing
The one who risks nothing,does nothing and has
Nothing - and finally is nothing
They may avoid sufferings and sorrow,
But simply cannot learn, feel,change,grow or love
Only one who risks is free

Jean Vanier

Mordja Amari Boradja !

Monday, February 26, 2007

It had to be believed to be seen ....... Grace




I spent saturday in an open air cathedral and was part of a redemptive act that gives me hope. The holy ground in question was Croke Park - headquarters of the Gaelic Athletic Association an arena where one morning in 1920 in revenge for the murder of 14 british agents that morning by the IRA , crown forces shot into the crowd at the match between Dublin and Tipperary , killing 13 spectators and one of the players.

On saturday Ireland played England at rugby and there was much media hype about the fact that God Save the Queen would be sung for the first time at the temple of an organisation set up in the late 19th century to oppose british rule. Trouble was predicted but instead we had Grace.

The day turned out better than expected - I scribbled this in my notebook .......... “ What a day - atmosphere electric , england come onto the pitch to a standing ovation . Moved to tears by the anthems , the respect for God save the Queen ..... received with dignity and given a huge round of applause .....then it felt like the stadium as one singing Irelands call. The roar when the match kicked off -an atmosphere like nothing i have ever experienced ... surrounded by friends and feeling an Irishness which included britishness and a britishness which included my irishness. It is suddenly holy ground as a nation comes of age.

A sporting holy communion with the right result on the pitch and off it - stunning rugby - a day to tell the grandchildren about - in future half the island will claim to have been there. But for those that were it was glorious - a team playhing to their potential but also a nation rising to the challenge of the hour ...showing that things had moved on and we can acknowledge the wrong of the past but not be bound by it ....we can move on ....we can be healed ....

The future is bright and not just orange ......our children and grandchildren will share this island north and south and today was another step towards that shared future . I walked away from Croke Park , hoarse and emotionally exhausted but after today I look towards our future more in hope than fear.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Authentic Mission

Its sexy and a little bit exciting to protest against the Iraq war , Its quite cool to have a red Amex card - me and Bono both. Its good to drink fair trade coffee/chocolate/wine and to lobby parliament to change our unjust trade laws. But its not that hard . I know because I've done/am doing all those things and its good but lets face it - it doesnt cost us that much.

I'm wondering if the real work is done in small local projects where people give literally years of their lives. Its not glamourous and theres little glory but to me it feels like thats where its at. How we can dare to change the world if we cant start on our own doorstep. I had lunch today in the cafe of east Belfast Mission and Glenn gave me an overview of the work they are doing and the incredible vision behind the Skainos project. Click on the link above and check it out. If you have any spare cash or time consider giving to them. Its right up there with Mornington in terms of an authentic community project that is Grace in action.

I've been campaigning for fair trade and debt relief etc for years and will continue to do so but I've done little real work on my own doorstep. Over the last little while everything I've been learning seems to point to that - the only faith I have left is a simple credo - Love God and Love your neighbour. Some of my neighbours are just down the road and I gotta learn how to love them.

Blessings

Monday, February 05, 2007

Badgers,Burdens and Buechner on the North Coast

"We must be careful of our lives, for Christ's sake, because it would seem that they are the only lives we are going to have in this puzzling and perilous world.And so they are very precious and what we do with them matters enormously. There is always this temptation to believe that we have all the time in the world, whereas the truth of it is that we do not. We have only a life, and the choice of how we are going to live it must be our own choice." Frederick Buechner in the Alphabet of Grace.

Up on the North Coast for the Soliton emerging church conference. A great weekend of conversation with emerging church folk from Ireland , England and the US but 2 moments will stay with me for a long time.

Saturday night near midnight with a full car travelling towards Castlerock when out of nowhere a badger runs out into the road - Instinctively I slam on the brakes and the car starts sliding towards the middle of the road. I have no choice but to straighten up and hit the badger full on. Any swerve might have killed us all. It didn't - we survived and incredibly so did Mr Badger despite quite an impact and going right under the car causing a fair bit of damage. Life is a thin thread which could have been snapped that night but it wasn't and we continued into the mystical experience of Sunday morning.

Early ethereal winter morning with mist rising and frost glistening on the ground. We gather on Whiterocks beach and walk through an ancient coastal landscape. A dusting of frost clings to the sand dunes as bright winter sunlight raises the spirits but not the temperature. In one direction a mile of golden sand with the gentle music of the waves breaking on the shore as we dander along. A few horses gallop by, splashing in the shallows. Incredibly a few surfers are braving the freezing waters. Cary turns and muses - " Surely there must be professional help available for them somewhere ?" We walk back to the other side - looking towards the headlands and the ruins of Dunluce Castle just visible through the mist.

Our guide is Jim a local beachcomber with his years of experience etched into lines on his weatherbeaten face. Jim is passionate about the beaches and natural beauty all around us. He is the teacher I never had at school - his love and passion overflowing through every word - he shows us the things he finds washed up on the beach. We learn how the cliffs behind us were formed by millions of tiny creatures. As I hold a piece of white paper he uses a magnet to separate the black sand from the golden. And he shows us the flint which sustained the first settlers in this area 9000 years before us. And Jim is also something I hope to be one day - Authentic. He speaks simply and beautifully of his walks on the beaches and his conversations with God.

At the end he invites us all to go and pick up a rock - bigger the better - and then come back. As we hold our rocks he continues to talk. Then asks a simple question - are the rocks getting heavy ? And then the parable - he invites us to see the rocks we are carrying as our burdens whatever they may be for - people , situations even our own lives. We take a moment to look at the sea and think of those burdens and then..... in a profound moment of art and faith we lay those burdens before God - building a sculpture of rocks on the beach as a sign between us and God. Jim weeps for the beauty of what we have done - a memorial between us and God that even now has already been washed away but yet will forever remain.

I felt like a child again ,delivered , healed and whole in the embrace of a brown and earthy God who took pleasure in us casting our burdens on him, who loved the sculpture of those burdens and encouraged us all to walk barefoot,fly kites and make sandcastles.

"There is deliverance, to use that beautiful old word, and Christians are people who through such now-and-then, here-and-there visions as they've had, through Christ, have been delivered just enough to know that there's more where that came from, and whose experience of the little deliverance that has already happened inside themselves and whose faith in the deliverance still to happen is what sees them through the night."
Frederick Buechner, A Room Called Remember



On days like this I Believe and it sees me through the night.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Community in sadness and in joy

A strange week bookended by life and death. One member of our community loses a loved one while another welcomes a new life into the world. Both ends of life and the rest of us in the middle trying to make sense of it all and find in each other the strength and love and support to keep going.Joy and sadness mixed.

But community has to work in sadness as well as joy or theres no point - we laugh , love and weep together or not at all.


Continuing to read Benedict and his thoughts on community are as ever simple and profound.

"They should each try to be the first to show respect to each other , supporting with the greatest patience one another's weaknesses of body or behaviour."

Rule of St Benedict ,72 'The good zeal of monks'

I pray that we will continue to do so at this sad and also joyous time.

m

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Lessons for a slow learner

Contentment in Sanctus Boscus.


Am sitting by a turf fire at midnight , Emiliana Torrini is singing on the Ipod and I have a glass of single malt Macallan uisce beatha in my hand.

I'm learning the beauty of slowing down and listening to my life. Tonight it was catching up with a good friend - listening to each others lives and realising that life itself is grace.

Thats all it was, nothing spectacular - just 2 good friends sipping tea by a fire and finding out what was happening in each others lives. And yet I am more content than I have been for a long time.

It is in the little things that we find the greater truths.

Try it .

good night

sleep well and remember that life is grace and that we are fearfully and wonderfully made .

blessings

Monday, January 15, 2007

District and Circle

Irelands greatest living poet Seamus Heaney has won the TS Elliot award for poetry for his latest collection, District and Circle, which draws on his travels to work on the London Underground in his younger days.The prize was presented by TS Eliot's widow, Valerie Eliot, at a ceremony in central London.Heaney's work was described by the judges as "exhilarating".
The TS Eliot Prize for Poetry is organised by the Poetry Book Society, which was founded by Eliot in 1953 to develop and maintain poetry reading in the UK.

I remember being introduced to Heaney at school and the poem which I started with has remained to this day my favourite. A changing of the guard from old ireland to the new ireland - a new way of digging for a living , nay maybe even to survive. Anyway I'll be raising a glass to Seamus tonight - ok so he's already got a Nobel prize but still well done.


Digging

Between my finger and my thumb
The squat pen rests; as snug as a gun.

Under my window a clean rasping sound
When the spade sinks into gravelly ground:
My father, digging. I look down

Till his straining rump among the flowerbeds
Bends low, comes up twenty years away
Stooping in rhythm through potato drills
Where he was digging.

The coarse boot nestled on the lug, the shaft
Against the inside knee was levered firmly.
He rooted out tall tops, buried the bright edge deep
To scatter new potatoes that we picked
Loving their cool hardness in our hands.

By God, the old man could handle a spade,
Just like his old man.

My grandfather could cut more turf in a day
Than any other man on Toner's bog.
Once I carried him milk in a bottle
Corked sloppily with paper. He straightened up
To drink it, then fell to right away
Nicking and slicing neatly, heaving sods
Over his shoulder, digging down and down
For the good turf. Digging.

The cold smell of potato mold, the squelch and slap
Of soggy peat, the curt cuts of an edge
Through living roots awaken in my head.
But I've no spade to follow men like them.

Between my finger and my thumb
The squat pen rests.
I'll dig with it.

Seamus Heaney







blessings

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Sitting by a Turf Fire Resolving


When turf burns it fills the room with a fragrance and also with memories of the uncounted years ...memories of the earth ...of things that have been and gone maybe a thousand years ago but still there is a trace of them left in the earth. Nothing is ever quite forgotten in this land of saints and scholars and those who are somewhere in between.

Its the time of year when many of us make resolutions - I've never really liked them but this year as we sat round the dinner table here in Sanctus Boscus on new years eve we talked about how we would like to live in the year that will be known as 07.

For myself I would like it to be a year of living generously. A year of investing in friendships and people and of realising what is actually important. I've been reading a book called Finding Sanctuary - Monastic Steps for everyday life by Abbot Christopher Jamison. Its basically a simple up to date explanation of the rule of Benedict and how it applies today. One of his main points about the business of modern life is, that business is our choice. We choose to be running from one thing to the other and complain about not having enough time. Well I'm going to choose this year to be less busy and to have mroe time for the things i love and that are important. Reading books , walking on the beach , listening to life - my own and those I am lucky enough to call friends and trying to work out what it means to believe in God in the 21st century.

So heres to a year of hospitality , silence , contemplation , meditation , friendship and occasional faith .

As a good friend texted to me on new years eve - May it be a year of living out your dreams, be they big or small , of daring to love and being loved for who you are. You are precious.

May we all be generous with each other , embrace the mystery and enjoy the ride .

blessings .

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

A Very Celtic New Year to y'all

As we sail into another year I have been reading a little of the 3 surviving works of St Patrick. Of the 3 perhaps the most famous is the Lorica of St Patrick - a lorica being a type of prayer of protection (literally meaning "breastplate"), which was popular in Celtic countries. This particular prayer is said to have turned St. Patrick and his followers into deer when they were being pursued by the king’s men early one morning--hence the title "The Deer’s Cry."

Although I enter 2007 more in hope than fear it does no harm to recite the breastplate of St Patrick - may his blessing and protection surround you this year.

I arise today
Through a mighty strength,
the invocation of the Trinity
Through belief in the threeness
Through confession of the Oneness
Towards the creator.

I arise today
Through the strength of Christ with his baptism,
Through the strength of his crucifixion with his burial,
Through the strength of his resurrection with his ascension
Through the strength of his descent for the Judgement of doom.

I arise today
Through the strength of the love of Cherubim
In obedience to the Angels,
In the service of the Archangels,
In hope of resurrection to meet with reward,
In prayers of patriarchs,
In predictions of prophets,
In preaching of Apostles,
In faiths of confessors,
In innocence of Holy Virgins,
In deeds of righteous men.

I arise today
Through the strength of heaven:
Light of sun
Brilliance of moon
Splendor of fire
Speed of lightning
Swiftness of wind
Depth of sea
Stability of earth
Firmness of rock.

I arise today
Through God’s strength to pilot me:
God’s might to uphold me,
God’s wisdom to guide me
God’s eye to look before me,
God’s ear to hear me,
God’s word to speak for me,
God’s hand to guard me,
God’s way to lie before me,
God’s host to secure me
against snares of devils
against temptations of vices
against inclinations of nature
against everyone who shall wish me ill,
afar and anear,
alone and in a crowd.

I summon today all these powers between me and these evils
Against every cruel and merciless power that may oppose my body and my soul,
Against incantations of false prophets,
Against black laws of heathenry,
Against false laws of heretics,
Against craft of idolatry,
Against spells of women and smiths and wizards,
Against every knowledge that endangers man’s body and soul.

Christ to protect me today
against poison,
against burning,
against drowning,
against wounding,
so that there may come abundance of reward.
Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me,
Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ on my right, Christ on my leftChrist where I lie,
Christ where I sit, Christ where I arise
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of every man who speaks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,Christ in every ear that hears me.

I arise today
Through a mighty strength,
the invocation of the Trinity,
Through belief in the Threeness,
Through confession of the Oneness
Towards the Creator.
Salvation is of the Lord
Salvation is of the Lord
Salvation is of Christ
May thy salvation, O Lord, be ever with us.