Sunday, September 05, 2010

How much of this was meant to be-How much the work of the devil?

Still enjoying Dakota by Kathleen Norris. She peppers her everyday experiences with the historical context of the plains states and the memories that go back to the dust bowl of the thirties. I cant begin to comprehend what it must have been like for the small farmers to watch the earth blow away before their eyes. To watch their living and their ability to feed their families disappear in an afternoon. Reminded me of Resplendent by the amazing Vigilantes of Love. The Blog title comes from a line in the song and I'm not sure of the answer.

If you do let me know your thoughts but do check out the Vigilantes of Love - they are one of America's best kept secrets. There is a line in a song by The Frames which says "the stars are underground" and that describes Vigilantes so well. Recognised by other song writers, hence Emmy Lou Harris doing the backing vocals here. But they have never had the public recognition they deserve. The stars truly are underground but they are still resplendent.

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Tis not easy

I heard Jonathan Wilson Hartgrove (click on title above to visit his website) speak at Greenbelt. He is part of the new monasticism movement and he was giving some context to his work in the states. One of the key points to his story was his learning that christianity was hard. It wasn't a simple Billy Graham moment of conversion and then life is fine. What the gospels call you to do is antithetical to a lot of middle class and church values. Christianity if you take it seriously is very hard.

I thought of this today when I was walking back from work and passed 2 Big Issue sellers, and was accosted by an obviously drunk man asking me for either a cigarette or strangely, thirty pence.

I confess that I struggle to know what to do in these situations. Part of me believes in feeding the poor and sheltering the homeless, and part of me thinks - I pay taxes and there is a welfare state - you don't have to be homeless. Its not hard to work out which is the gospel response and which is the middle class protestant response.

And its not as simple as that but I think that was the point that Jonathan was making when he talked about Christianity being hard. This is an issue I will be wrestling with every day walking through the city centre. If I find any answers I'll let you know. In the meantime here's a little blessing from the Franciscans who have a lot more experience in this area than me.

Franciscan Benediction.

“May God bless you with discomfort at easy answers, half truths, and superficial relationships so that you may live deep within your heart
May God bless you with anger at injustice, oppression and exploitation of people so that you may work for justice, freedom and peace
May God bless you with tears to shed for those who suffer pain, rejection, hunger and war so that you may reach out your hand to comfort them and to turn their pain into joy

And may God bless you with enough foolishness to believe that you can make a difference in the world so that you can do what others claim cannot be done to bring justice and kindness to all our children and the poor…”

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Go Sit in your Cell,

and your cell will teach you everything.
Abba Moses. The Sayings of the Desert Fathers.

Hallo again.

I know its been a while and I've no excuse. I've been a little bit too happy and a little too lazy.

Anyway I'm still happy but in my post-greenbelt glow its time to write once more.

Not sure about what or if anyone is even still reading blogs. Perhaps best to start with a child's description of the sky over Dakota.

The Sky is full of blue
And full of the mind of God.

Its from the book of the same name by Kathleen Norris. I've been inspired as I sit in my small plain rented weekday room in Manchester where I'm working at present. She describes how she had to travel across the state to teach poetry in various tiny rural schools. Often she stayed in terrible motels whose grim surroundings initially overwhelmed her.But she decided to embrace the surroundings by learning from the desert fathers. She began to view her tacky cheap motel room as a monks cell full of the gifts of silence and solitude. A place to read and write - to be in the desert and watch it bloom. As she describes it....
"I had stumbled on a basic truth of asceticism: that it is not necessarily a denigration of the body, though it has often been misapplied for that purpose. Rather it is a way of surrendering to reduced circumstances in a manner that enhances the whole person. It is a radical way of knowing exactly who, what and where you are, in defiance of those powerful forces in society -alcohol, drugs, television, shopping malls, motels - that aim to make us forget."
Kathleen Norris. Dakota: A Spiritual Geography.

I love that she see's shopping malls and television as being as dangerous for our soul as drugs and alcohol. And I think she might be on to something.

I plan to explore that idea for the next year- during the week I'm in exile from my love and from my home. But I want to embrace this cell and see if I can learn from the experience. Lets see what happens.