Tuesday 29 April 2014

#LiveBelowTheLine Day one and two

I started my second go at living below the line yesterday.

I'd found the challenge really helpful last year and found it spiritually moving too. I'm doing it again.

For Monday I spent 92p.
- Tinned potatoes 15p
- Tinned mushy peas 16p
-Tinned sweetcorn 21p
- Rice 40p

I had rice and sweetcorn salad for lunch.
Mushy peas and dry-fried tin potatoes for tea
A bit of rice for supper.

For Tuesday I spent £1.07 ( a note on this later)
- Two bananas 18p
- Can of value chilli 55p!
- Chopped tomatoes 34p

For breakfast I have had a banana.
For lunch chilli, rice and potatoes
For tea I will have chilli and rice
For supper, a banana

Four reflections to note so far:

1. Feel like I have settled into a prayer / mealtime routine more quickly than I did last year.

2. I really want chocolate and am already looking at ways to stretch the budget.

3. Am once again challenged by the wheat-free angle. Last night at Sainsbury's, the bread was all selling off at the end of the day, 12 wheaty bread rolls for 9p. Or two wheat-free bread rolls for £1.99. Hmmm.

4. Last year i got myself in such a tiz-woz trying to make sure I ate no more than £1.00 of food a day. And getting all confused, that if I saved money to buy, for example, eggs, the next day, I would come to the end of the week and have to leave food untouched, as some kind of overspend. But all that is in my mind as a consequence of doing #LiveBelowTheLine in my way, as I did last year, I am giving myself £1 a day to spend on food. I didn't start the week with £5. My reasons for that remain the same (and I am in no ways saying my way of doing it is preferable to anyone else's way, it's just something that I'm keen to do.)

Enjoying the week and glad for all that I take for granted.

Saturday 26 April 2014

LECTIONARY SECOND SUNDAY OF EASTER: Thomas, Doubtless (John 20:19-31)

Thomas, Doubtless

Thomas, you're my apostle, the one who had a clue,

And you never shrunk away from the painfulness of the true,

Living at the edge of what was credible, and by extension uncouth,

Within your hands you grasped truth beyond falling grains of sands,

Yet you never grabbed the saviour’s skin,

And never forced your fingers in,

You never danced in the dark like they’d like us all to think, But you walked in light, with truth by your side,

Your guide, so bright,

It was you who knew the saviour’s call and it was you who would walk willingly to the cross with him,

No chagrin falsehoods held you back,

No cynical contritions were there to distract,

You from his cause,

And I give my thanks to God for you,

For you were the one who stepped beyond the shadows and recognised the Son,

And your eyes knew the Lord when you saw him,

I love the energy with which you lived out your faith,

Not stopping to pause,

Thomas, your faith was an all in or all out faith,

No second rate stopping to hold back, “backslide” (sic), shy encumbered faith,No wayward walking disgraced faith,

Rather you stepped into the chasm with Jesus as your guide,

You stood beside the saviour while your fellow disciples held their breath,

They thought you’d put your fingers in the side of that saviour,

Like they’d never actually registered the words that left his mouth,

His head hung low, looking out at you and those beyond,

No picture paints this situation and no picture’s worth its frame,

We’ve cast you as the villain,

And it’s us who should take the blame,

Thomas when I’m older and I look back on my life,

I’ll pray to God for mercy, and for passage through the strife, And in those hours I’ll remember you and the way you lived your walk,

My God, my God, my God,

May my faith resemble yours,

For while they all were hiding, you were out there on the street, while they were casting shadows you were somewhere far removed,

Maybe looking for the Christ among the people that you met,

And when you heard the tale about Jesus being present, did you question this new reality, or wonder about their account?

It’s all a moment snatched from sand in an hour glass, captured like a Polaroid to paint a picture that deceives, this house of mirrors can’t hold back this truth,

Thomas in your lifetime you followed the living Lord,

And Thomas since your passing you’ve inspired millions more,

(If you were living now, you’d be trolled all day on Twitter)

But those of us who know you better and have walked beside you on your walk, we fear the steps we have to take as we contemplate our Lord,

We tread the paths others have made and we try our damnedest to be glad, Thomas you inspire, a life like very few others,

And that word that’s hung around your neck, a verbal noose that must be loosed,

Must be lost, cast down, beside the saviour’s crown of thorns,

The faith with which you lived is with what your memory should be adorned.

The words they come too easily to those who’ve never known, the words they come to easily to those whose feet have never flown,

But in purest terms you followed,

And that’s all we have to give,

So offering my cracked clay facade I will walk this path with you,

I’ll hope to follow him closely,

And I’ll try to know it’s true,

And with every step I take and every inhalation I make,

My breath will echo you,

This faith will be enacted,

This resurrection be embodied,

This dream will be built on foundations of longing And hope.

Rest now Thomas, and let the labels be laid down,

For in this generation, in you a Saint’s veneration has been found.

Thomas, Doubtless is a stream of consciousness poem written in 6 minutes.

Friday 25 April 2014

Friday 18 April 2014

LECTIONARY EASTER (SUN)DAY: Easter Day (John 20:1-18 or Matthew 28:1-10)

This morning,
Everything is new,
Life takes a different shape,
What was,
Has gone.

Hurts are lost in the immediate distant past.

Memories of defeat,
Are just that - memories,

A new truth calls out
As a witness to all.

What was learned
Must be unlearned

Great divides lose their power,
In the wake of this new morning,
Feet, tired with hurt
Will no longer be fixed - still,

Some will struggle onwards or back,
Some will take wary, careful steps forward,

And still others will spring into a new reality,
Freshly rooted with delight,
Cantering and contorting,
Crisp new modes of existence,
New experiences
Sharp with anticipation
And expectation.

On every street hope will sing
From rejoicing lips
And darkness will be overcome.

Resurrection calls out across
Eternity’s vastness

And the decay of the past
Is lost to dust,
Forgotten and Broken.

When the sun rises
And the clouds are stripped away,
When the way is made clear
And the paths are repaved
With righteousness,

The new future begins.

Thursday 17 April 2014

‘And when they had crucified him.’ Good Friday meditation for Matthew 27:33-44

Six simple words.
That’s all that Matthew tells us.
About the act of crucifying the saviour.
And Matthew’s scant words tell us something.
These six English word’s, (only three in the Greek), they tell us.
They tell us how typical this was.

‘And when they had crucified him.’

Almost like it was an everyday task.
Like putting the bins out.
Or doing the washing up.
Almost like an everyday task.
Which it was.
To the soldiers who held down his arms.
Who gripped his hands and stretched them out wide.
Who forced the nails home into his wrists.
And through his feet.
Piercing flesh, tearing muscle and scraping bone.

‘And when they had crucified him.’

There is no mystery here.
There is no Hollywood movie glamour.
Only harsh nails.
And harsh actions.
Actions not motivated by hate, or intolerance.
Not actions charged with anger and frustration:
Although there was plenty of that going round.
No, the hands that crucified Jesus were the same hands that guarded palaces.
The same hands that controlled crowds and followed commands.
The same hands that fought with swords and gripped shields tightly.

‘And when they had crucified him.’

Another crucifixion.
That was all it was.
Another crucifixion in a long line of crucifixions.
Three this day.
Countless numbers in the days and weeks and months before.
And countless numbers in the days and weeks and months to follow.
Those strong hands didn’t force nails through this one out of anger.
They did it because that is what they did.
Orders given and orders followed.

‘And when they had crucified him.’

Once the condemned man was hung upon the cross,
The soldiers did what they always did.
Divided the clothes among themselves, of the one soon to die.
He wouldn’t need them after all.
This condemned man was no different to any other.
A thief, a murderer, a bandit, a rebel, a seditionist, a traitor,
The empire crucified them all.
Simply condemned - not to make amends for their transgressions,
But to keep the streets clean, to keep the peace,
To uphold the lore of Caesar,
And to keep the occupied territories in order.

‘And when they had crucified him.’

How could they have known this man was any different,
From the ones who’d died before.
His claims had been more audacious,
And his rebellion fuelled by words and peaceful actions,
Until sword blades swung and sung in the quiet garden at his arrest.
So they’d mocked him, they’d beaten him, they’d spat upon his brow,
They’d treated him with the same contempt as any impostor king,
And now here he hung, another false idol, another failed coup,
Another broken rebellion and another wasted life.....

‘And when they had crucified him.’

To commemorate his folly and to indicate his crime they hung the sign,
Above his bloodied head,
“This is Jesus, the King of the Jews” the homemade sign read.
And that was that.
They hammered more nails into the quivering wrists,
And shaking ankles of two bandits, two rebels,
Who they crucified alongside him.
Then they sat down and watched.
Strong hands resting as the sun rose in the morning sky.

By then, they had crucified him.

Saturday 12 April 2014

LECTIONARY HOLY WEEK: Lay them down (Matthew 21:1-11)

Lectionary Poem: Lay them down. Matthew 21:1-11

The city awakes from latent slumber,
Born afresh on this new day,
Gates flung wide,
Enters the messiah,
Riding on a donkey, a colt,
“Hosanna” is the shout that fills the dusty streets,
“Hosanna” is the praise that echoes to midday heat,
Slumbering the giant,
The city groans,
Crowds muster,
People cheer,
“Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord”

Lay them down you city dwellers,
Lay them down you passersby,
Lay them down you stoutly devoted,
Lay them down you sinner’s hearts,
Lay them down you worthy righteous,
Lay them down you untouched outlaws,

Today marks another way sign,
When future and past,
Convene to bless humanity,
The new way is beginning,
And “messiah” is in the midst,
Time ticks by, and days will pass,
At history’s reshaping,
On weary roads and between hovel homes,
Cloaks are laying down,
Walked upon by hooves and crowds,
Living breathing witnesses,
And a new season will soon begin.

Lay them down you city dwellers,
Lay them down you passersby,
Lay them down you stoutly devoted,
Lay them down you sinner’s hearts,
Lay them down you worthy righteous,
Lay them down you untouched outlaws.

Thursday 10 April 2014

Saturday 5 April 2014

Atlum Schema

I’ve been meaning to write this piece for the last few weeks!

A few weeks ago I received an eagerly anticipated CD through the post. I’d pre-ordered Atlum Schema’s new album, Year 0, a little while before and I’d know that it was due. I’d listened to the song sampler download that was available prior to the full release of the album, and I’d also watched the video for one of the tracks relentlessly.

Needless to say, when the CD arrived I was delighted. It’s a beautiful album, filled with great tunes, fantastic lyrics and lively melodies.

Atlum Schema (Andy Mort) makes music that deserves to be played more widely, known by more people and enjoyed further afield. Andy’s a bit of a cottage industry, writing, playing, recording, off his own back.
Along with Rivers and Robots and Listener, Andy is another example of great artists who have decided to use bandcamp, social media and online opportunities to make a go of making music as more than just a hobby. Andy is constantly exploring creativity and does some amazing things.

Now, in no way am I trying to write an NME / MOJO style review of this album, but I do want to impress upon people the impression it made on me. It’s spiritual stuff, deeply emotive, and it comes from somewhere very deep. Much of the album was apparently written while one of Andy’s close friends was incredibly ill (if I’m not mistaken) and while that can be read in the lyrics and comes across in the mood of the album, it’s an uplifting experience. This is an album to be savoured. It’s not just a CD to listen to when you are feeling depressed, or ill, or lonely, or even contemplative, it’s a sing-along drive album, it’s a great album.

Imagine Sigur Ros meets Waxahatchee, Justin Vernon and the Low Anthem for a drink: this is the music that comes out.

Musically the album is fantastic, but lyrically it is utterly flawless. Devastatingly insightful and incisive.  
Let me give you some examples,

Empire of the Soul:
“We are the accepted face.
We make the rules for the game.
Carry the gun filled with fatal saving grace.

This is an empire,
I’m sure, 'cos the thing that we fear is the thing we fight for.
This is the empire of the soul.”

Wrecking Ball
i’m on their side not your side this time
i’m on their side not your side of the line

you’re perfect, it’s not about you
it must be what the rest of us do
we’re vile and we’re creatures of hate
please don’t give up on us you are great

Pretending To Sleep
sleep talking investment quickly
sell my soul for a chance
priest is quick to grant forgiveness
where I’m going is hell

it’s impossible to wake someone pretending to sleep
it’s impossible to wake somebody like me

Bottom Line
What am I worth to you if I’m alive?
What am I worth to you?

Please sir, did I meet the bottom line or am I dispensable?
Did I meet the bottom line?
Did I toe your party line or was I reprehensible?
Did I toe the party line?

I could go on and on and on. Andy’s gift is finding a lyrical hook, and nailing it. Like a poetic tweet, he writes a phrase that tears through your soul and seems to build around it.

Do yourself a favour, support an independent musician doing amazing things. Go over to bandcamp and buy this CD (or download if that’s your kind of thing!)

Anyway, enough of me, check Andy’s stuff out at www.atlumschema.com @atlumschema

LECTIONARY FIFTH SUNDAY OF LENT: A series of haiku's (John 11:1-45)

Please note: these may not actually fit the form requirements of what a haiku is made of. But they're haiku's to me!

John 11:1-45 A series of haiku’s

Verse 11 .... “our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep”

Our friend lay down
Lazarus asleep, not alive
Eyes shut tight, so dark

Verses 14-15 .... “Lazarus is dead”

Death has visited
Lazarus, shrouded in dust
Nothing more to do

Verse 16 .... “Let us also go, that we might die with him.”

“To die is our call
And with him we must now go”
Thomas unafraid

Verses 25-26 .... “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die.”

“The resurrection
Am I, in me put your faith
Now live beyond death”

Verse 33 .... he was deeply moved in spirit and trouble

Such trouble, weighed down
A heart filled with compassion
Honest empathy

Verse 35 .... Jesus wept

Jesus, moved to tears,
Loved ones’ pain, so much to bear
To him, just the start

Verse 40 .... “Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?”

Glory embodied
A miracle to be seen
To only believe

Verses 43-44 .... “Lazarus, come out!”

“Roll this stone away,
This death has been defeated
Lazarus, come out!”

Tuesday 1 April 2014

LECTIONARY FOURTH SUNDAY OF LENT (Gospel Reading for Mothering Sunday): “Swords and Souls” (Luke 2:33-35)

A sword will pierce your soul,
As a word will prise the heart,
Taking what was given,
And tearing it apart,

Born to live by a heartbeat’s rhythm,
Living to die by the hands of those forgiven,
A gift from God to human hands,
This child, immaculate, perfection’s hope driven,

Marvelling at phrases and storing up treasures in hearts,
Birth-blessings descend, an explosion of words,
But where this life ends,
Is on a tree, preceded by the clatter of swords,

There is redemption to be found,
In this little life’s fulfilment at the cross,
And with it the weight of a parent’s pain,
Salvation is attained, but not without cost.