love that loves us, merci!
these are the concluding words or prayer of 'to the wonder', a film by terrence malick that's out in cinemas at the moment. it's dividing audiences. the guardian and litle white lies both loved it giving rave reviews while others are giving one star.
it's a mystical exploration of love, life, god, wonder, and the meaning of existence. it's poetic, arty, and romantic. words come and go in french and english, half of which are mumbled. there's lot's of silence. lots of it is shot around twilight. if you go and see it there is really no point unless you can turn off your cynical or critcal self. for most of us that's pretty hard - i had to fight myself in the film to avoid flipping into that! in the end this paid dividends and i found it a curious, surprising film that has lingered with me ever since and is still making me think.
for most mystics the goal of life is union with god. the start point is usually that there's a restlessness and longing in all of us for that union. meanwhile as we search and look for meaning many many things distract us, and we find our own desire, love and relationships give moments of joy and wonder and delight, but they are also shot through with our own struggles and selfish desire and brokeness. we see in part but won't see fully until we are one with god. that is the theme of the film, plain and simple like hands on stained glass trying to touch the light beyond. there's a parallel story track between lovers looking for that union and finding glimpses of it that get lost on the way, and with a priest who similarly does the same. mean time the soil of the town is polluted and making people ill. the woman who is the central character is always aware of something that is beyond, that is transcendent, that is the love that loves us, in spite of how fractured her own relationships (and the very soil of the earth) become at times. it reminded me of the quote from douglas coupland in life after god
sometimes i think the people to feel saddest for are people who once knew what profoundness was but who lost or became numb to the sensation of wonder - people who closed the doors that lead us into the secret world - or who had the doors closed for them by time and neglect and decisions made in times of weakness
our culture in the uk is not really very open to this mystical view of the world. we have become numb, angry even at the notion of something beyond ourselves, that we might not be at the centre of the universe. some of the reviews show this anger - apparently the film was booed at the film festival in venice when it was shown. when we saw it five people walked out. i was amazed to find myself watching it in a big cinema. it's overtly spiritual, unasamedly presenting the viewer with their own restlessness or longing for the love that loves us. there's nowhere to hide. you can disagree with the mystical view and walk out but our existence is laced with the experience that this landscape of desire is right at the core of who we are. i certainly came out longing more for the love that loves us. i guess the photo above which i called longing at the time was me trying to say something similar to terrence malick!
in september i read a poem by michael mitton inspired by the celtic saint kevin. well it turned out that it really caught ric stott's attention as an approach to pioneering mission. he has blogged about kevin's hand - and this is a painting of his. what i think is interesting about it is that the stereotype of pioneering is often thought of as an activist or at least someone who is making things happen through doing stuff. st kevin offers a different model of pioneering through stillness and patience.
it reminded me of the book by elaine heath - the mystic way of evangelism which fuses insights from the contemplative life with mission. i meant to review it but never got round to it. but here's a quote i jotted down...
Christian mysticism is about the holy transformation of the mystic by God, so that the mystic becomes instrumental in the transformation of God’s people. This transformation always results in missional action in the world. The idea that mysticism is private and removed from the rugged world of ministry is simply false. All the Old Testament prophets were mystics. Their visions, dreams and other experiences of God were for the express purpose of calling God’s people back to their missional vocation.
there's an interview with elaine here
mark wallinger is going to be installing a wall mounted labyrinth at all 270 london underground stations - yes 270! now there's a photographic challenge for someone...
the writers of creative review clearly have no idea on the difference between a labyrinth and a maze but i assume the designs will all be labyrinths.
the first ten designs are up at baker st, bank, embankment, victoria, green park, kings cross st pancras, oxford circus, tottenham court rd, westminster, st james park with rest due in the summer.
first worship trick of the year - no idea what number i have got to. i must tidy them up... anyway lou davis, venture fx pioneer in edinburgh, is doodling in response to a short section of the bible. it sounds like a great way to reflect but i doubt i will find the time or artistry so i will check her doodling instead.
this is a space to think, pray, relax, meditate
the photo above is of my feet when i was sat in the space (clearly being distracted). the last three years have been the busiest of my life. i realised at the start of this year that i can't do another at the same rate. i like the start of the year because it is a space to reflect and rethink some patterns. but i know i need to rebalance my life in some way for the year ahead. here's a few things i am thinking about that hopefully will help
rhythm of life. jen and i have found developing a rhythm of life really helpful in the last couple of years. what i mean by this is that we have plotted on one side of paper what our yearly, monthly and weekly pattern looks like. we try and make it a natural rhythm with the seasons of the year. and have then added some things that we want to try and do that are energising - for example inviting people round for meals at least once a month, a termly day of silence, not working more than two weekends in a month, having a weekly meal where we linger at the table for the evening and share bread and wine... we then talk about this every month or so. it's not a heavy thing - it's light touch. and in some ways it doesn't matter what's on there - it just helps create a conversation about it.
retreat. since starting the cms pioneer training, we have asked students to take a retreat each year. well you can't do that without doing it yourself. this is now essential for me. this year i am booked in to an 8 day silent retreat which i am nervously looking forward to.
holiday/rest. the last couple of years i have not managed to take my quota of holiday from work. this is entirely my own doing. i intend to change that this year and have sat down with jen and already diaried things we will do which already feels good.
art. imagine a world without gigs, music, film, photography, festivals, poetry, books, exhibitions? whenever i look back over the year and thngs that have energised me art is always a big factor - both the enjoying and the creating. and yet it's easy to forget or not prioritise it.
stop doing some things. i have already shifted one thing in my life this yar and i have a list of others. i realised in converation with a friend that i am my own worst enemy here. i do things out of habit and because i can - some of those i smply need to let go of or let others do. so i will be working on those habits. part of the reason for stopping is that i want to carve out time for thinking and possibly studying a day a week if possible.
prayer. i need and want to pray but find it difficult like everyone else in the world! i am someone who likes change so need to keep it fresh. this year i am starting off by using a book that cost me one pence second hand finding god in all things exploring ignatian prayer along with prayer exercises from sadhana by anthony de mello (which you can also get for one pence), a book i have had for years. i intend to read them both slowly and linger with them trying out the exercises and prayer.
someone to reflect with. i am fortunate to have a great community grace that i journey and explore faith with. if you are not part of a community why not join one or start one? - if you are near ealing come and join us! i also have someone who i meet with 3/4 times a year for some intentional conversation about my life in relation to faith. this is a wonerful thing to have found.
so there's a few of my thoughts on what i am hoping will help me find space to think for the year ahead. i had originally started this post with the intention of reviewing two books. these are two very recent books on finding space to think and pray. i'll recommend them by way of an end to the post because if you are looking for a book to help you these might be ones to explore.
the first is less is more: spirituality for busy lives by brian draper. when this book arrived we had two people living with us and before i had had a chance to look at the book they had both picked it up and read it and loved it. it's a book that explores exactly what it says in the title. it's contemporary, practical and easy to read. the irony is that i was too busy to read it at the time!
the second is return to our senses by christine sine. she is a prolific blogger and creates lovely prayers and liturgies. spirituality is her thing. this is another very easy to read book with very practical ideas and suggestings for prayer using things like gardening or breathing.
both are the kind of books that would work best if read an practised slowly - even though they are both easy to read. they would also be good books to explore and try the various ideas with others - maybe a book for lent? and they are both cheap to buy which is always a plus.
after the cms pioneer christmas bash today i am heading up to n wales with gav to see the en gedi arts advent exhibition and to take part in this panel on the theme another world is possible (following my greenbelt spiel on the same theme). details here
then thurs it's a visit to manchester to take part in a day hosted by venture fx - VFXtra which is open to anyone i think. there are three such regional gatherings going on on the same day.
be nice to get out of london and oxford for a few days!
ADVENTurous on saturday was a wonderful day. i hope it is the first of many - a regular advent festival like this exploring poignant themes, celebrating advent, fused with the arts in london would be amazing. i was photographer for the day and have added a set of photos here - see slideshow here.
this photo is the lead singer of hope and social wandering into the crowd literally unplugged - up on a pew (which he politely asked permission for!!) singing and hand aloft to the cavern of the chapel. it was a really magical moment. it was also almost completely in the dark so i was pleased i managed to get a photo out of it!
and this is one of the amazing pieces of art put together by engedi arts and now in leeds and shortly to be in colwyn bay - this chess set is called 'mother mary chess set' and is by pea runstall and pits a series of marys against the empire of domination - it must have taken an eon to make and was quite extraordinary as was the rest of the art.
last week when i was on the missional entrepreneurship week mark simpson took notes by sketching on an ipad with the app paper53 . i had this app and had enjoyed messing with it but i really liked watching what he did by way of catching some moments of what was being said. he has posted some sketches on his blog
anyway i thought i'd try doing the same and did so today at the fresh expressions day - i have posted the results on my facebook page if you're interested. this was my attempt at a sketch of archbishop rowan williams who hopefully felt the huge appreciation in the room for what he has done to encourage mission through fresh expressions. now any real artists out there?
how many tears?
how much grief?
why do women always seem to be the ones to carry the pain?
this photo is of a station of the cross at oxford jam factory a few years ago. the artist is cara heafey the station is where jesus meets the women of jerusalem.
this was as good an image i could think of on the day when we wake up to a church of england that has said no to women bishops - deeply sad.
well following yesterday's blog post of paul hobbs exhibition coming up in london it turns out another artist friend, iain cotton, who i knew in bath at the same time as paul is exhibiting in london at the same time in corsham reformed.
paul hobbs has an exhibition in london in a couple of weeks time...
ADVENTurous is an exciting festival on dec 2 in london hosted by greenbelt at the wonderful union chapel. there is a day of thinking, artistry and imagining around the world we live in and the issues we face in the areas of faith, ecology and economy and how we get to a new world. the line up of speakers looks great - mike frost, ann morrisy, ruth valerio, ann pettifor, abdul rehman malik. then in the evening there is an evening of artistry with harry baker (!), iain archer and hope and social. tickets for the whole day if you book before the end of october are only £25 which seems like a pretty good deal.
en gedi arts are curating the visual arts for this and simultaneously exhibitions and events in leftbank leeds and the imperial hotel in colwyn bay. hope to see you there!
we took part in speed of light at edinburgh festival. it was a night walk of 3 hours up to arthur's seat in holyrood park overlooking edinburgh with walking sticks that had a a light at the bottom end to help you walk and a gizmo that emitted ambient sounds at particular altitudes. groups of runners in suits with lights on them ran across the adjacent hill to the walkers, creating a mesmerising effect. whilst it was called speed of light it was actually a slow meditative experience raher than a fast one. it was designed and put together by NVA. if you are in edinburgh book yourself in. clearly a challenge to photograph so i took up a tripod and grabbed a few 10 second or so exposures which look rather beautiful in their own way. this is the base of walkers light sticks (sabres?!) as they walk past. this is a moment at the top to pause and look over edinburgh and this gives a sense of the light sticks.
if you want to see a much more amazing set of images than mine (!) this slideshow at the guardian is brilliant...
yoko ono is a brilliant installation artist. she currently has an exhibition to the light at the serpentine gallery which i really recommend and it's free (and while you're there see the wonderful pavilion this summer). she is a very uncynical person and her work is laced with hope, imagination and a yearning for a better world. she's a romantic in the best sense i think. oustide the gallery are some wish trees - could be prayer trees i guess. take a label and write a wish. i found it very interesting to see what people wish for...
wonderful is the title of the final show of chelsea art college's graphic and design show. the work produced by students is quite amazing . they all have portfolios online here if you want to have a browse through movies, photo, fashion, type, web design, branding and so on.
the show was put together and curated by a group of the students. joel had two pieces in the show. one was an amazing 3d neon sign saying 'amen' which was part of a design for a poster campaign for the nightclub ministry of sound. set on a wooden stand in a perspex case it made me think that someone with some vision and space should buy it or get one made to be a communion table! it would look incredible...
his other piece is colloquy - his final project which is a web site of affective text - i.e. text that resonds to mood/emotion. go and try it out... and his portfolio is here. next step - the big wide world!
i took some photos here if you want a browse. the show is on all week...
[update: creative review do a write up here]
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where i come across creative ideas, liturgies, movies, music tracks, service outlines or anything that strikes me, i add them as worship tricks. i started these in april 2002 when i first began blogging and they have built up over the years so that i am now on the third series. this has proved a pretty popular feature of the blog.