prayer

A Musical Experience

If you're a person who sings, and sings seriously - I'm thinking about choirs and the like, including in church - you MAY know the piece of music I'm talking about today.

It's not easy to sing - I know, because I've tried it once or twice and it was beyond me.

But it's a glorious piece, actually more of an experience I would say, rather than just a 'sing'

And it was on this day - April 13th - in 1742 that Handel's 'Messiah' was first performed in Dublin!

George Frideric Handel was a German born composer who had trained and worked in Germany and Italy before moving to England in 1712. His reputation was built on compositions of Italian opera but as public tastes began to change, he adapted. In 1727 Handel became a naturalised British subject and by the 1730s he began producing English oratorios.

Hallelujah chorus sheet musicResearch tells me that Messiah was actually Handel's sixth oratorio in English and although it apparently had a rather low key debut, it was immediately popular. About a year after the Irish first night, Messiah was premiered in London, a gala performance attended by royalty. And apparently King George was so moved by the rendition of the “Hallelujah Chorus” that he rose from his seat. The audience also took to their feet and for the past 270-plus years, audiences have continued to do the same. Over the centuries it has become one of the best known, most popular and most frequently performed choral works in Western music.

But what I didn't realise until I started researching was that it was written at a time when Handel's health and reputation was failing. He was an opera man and that genre had begun to become less popular. He felt his work had become rather jaded and he was struggling, but he was a deeply religious man and he turned to the Bible for inspiration. And that's when he was re-energised and he started to produce some amazing works!

Messiah is all about life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ - the 'Messiah' being the saviour of humankind who is first mentioned in ancient Jewish scripture. Christians believe Jesus is the 'Messiah'.

Handel was so inspired that he apparently finished Part I of the piece (the birth of the Messiah and the Old Testament prophecies) in only six days. He composed Part II (the passion, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus) in nine days. Part III ( which charts the promise of redemption, the day of judgement and the resurrection which ends with the final victory over death for all those who believe) was completed in just six days. The orchestration took Handel only a few days more which means that in total, the whole composition took less than 25 days. Astonishing!

Handel's music is set to words compiled by Charles Jennens who drew from the King James Bible, and from the Coverdale Psalter, the version of the Psalms included with the Book of Common Prayer.  The 'libretto' is apparently not designed to dramatise the life and teachings of Jesus, but to acclaim the "Mystery of Godliness", and anyone who has sung or heard Messiah will be aware not just of the wonderful music but also of the spiritual impact it can have on a soul!

Handel continued to write religious music and to perform until, at the age of  74, he collapsed while conducting a performance of Messiah. At that time, as he was laid in bed he allegedly said  “I should like to die on Good Friday.” 

That wasn't to be, although he did die on a Holy Saturday -  April 14th, 1759. That anniversary is tomorrow! Handel’s grave is in Westminster Abbey in London and it's marked by a statue of him with a score of Messiah opened on the table. The page that is visible is, “I Know That My Redeemer Liveth.” 

But today I'm going to share perhaps the most familiar piece of music from Messiah and it's the piece that brought a king to his feet. And it's still attracting crowds ... as this 'flash mob' by the Jacksonville Symphony Chorus in the USA proves.

I love this and as I watch it I wonder if all those singing are actually members of the Chorus, or whether because the piece is so well known some people just started singing along?

I think Handel would have loved it.

Enjoy!

 




A Hope and a Future

Over the years I've experienced many changes in my life. 

Some good, some not so great.

But there's a verse from the Bible which has walked with me and which never fails to give me strength and fill me with optimism.

Whatever valley I walk through, whatever uncertainty I'm feeling inside and whatever hurdles I face,  this verse from scripture not only comforts but challenges me.

God knows what He's doing, even if I have not a clue. There is hope, even if I can't feel or see it right now.

So today I share this verse, and hope if YOU need a word of encouragement or are going through difficult times, this will help you too, and give you the hope you need to get through today!

Have a great day everyone!

ForIknow the plans Jeremiah


Thine be the Glory!

Happy Easter!

What a fantastic day today is!

If you're a Christian, like me, it's the Best Day of the Year. 

Why?

It's because today we celebrate something AMAZING!

Easter he is risenSomething supernatural and surreal, astonishing and astounding  ... as Christians we believe that today Jesus, who was killed two thousands years ago in Jerusalem, came back from the dead. He was 'resurrected'.

If you've been reading my blog these past few days, or if you're into theology, you'll know that this is central to the Christian faith. That we believe in a God who is alive. Jesus proved his divinity by living as a man, dying and then ... well being raised from the dead! Defying death!

And all this to give us all hope that if we believe in him, we may also live eternally, eventually, when we're done living life on earth!

Today we celebrate the life of Jesus and his resurrection - and what better way than to share a great hymn?

It is actually my favourite Easter hymn. Years ago I featured on the TV religious programme BBC Songs of Praise  (recorded in Jersey) and THIS was the song I chose.

It tells the story of Easter so well and it's so optimistic, so positive. It always fills me with joy! 

I hope it does the same for you today!

Happy Easter!

 

 


Written in Red

On Good Friday, as Christians we are remembering how Jesus Christ was crucified on a hill outside of the city of Jerusalem.

It's perhaps the holiest day of the year for Christians, and some people might think that it's strange to call a solemn holy day that commemorates a death a 'good day'.

JOhn 3 16Lots of deep theological and historical and cultural reasons for that, but for me the 'good' is there because actually it comes a few days before the main revelation of Christianity. Which is  ... that Jesus didn't stay dead!

Yes he died, but then he pushed through death, proving that it didn't have to be the end of existence.

By coming back to life he 'conquered' death which means that if we believe in Jesus we also ultimately can push back death. Dying doesn't have to be the end of it all for us. We can be God's person here on earth,  but we may also live eternally in the spirit world after we have shrugged off this mortal coil

It's an astonishing thing! Difficult to comprehend, supernatural, but when embraced, an outrageous concept of optimism and hope.

Christians believe that although Jesus lived as a man for about 33 years, including 30 as a member of a family, a working man, followed by three years as an itinerant preacher, teacher and miracle worker and healer in the place we now know as The Holy Land (modern day Israel) ... he actually was more than a man. He was the Son of God, or God himself in human form.

We Christians do believe that Jesus was the best example of a human being that ever existed and we are encouraged to emulate his compassion, love and life of service. We also believe that his death (and ultimate resurrection on the day we call 'Easter Sunday') not only shows his divinity, but also paves the way for us to embrace eternal life ... if we would only believe in Jesus and follow him.

If you've been reading my blog a bit this week you might have picked up that by the time he reached Jerusalem in the final days of his life - the time we call 'Holy Week' in the church - the religious leaders of the day were determined to get rid of Jesus.

There were rumours that people believed that Jesus - the poor itinerant preacher - was actually the Messiah. This was the person that ancient scripture said would be sent by God to save the people of Israel. Not to mention those claims that Jesus could actually be God in human form, or the Son of God. For the Jewish religious leaders this was blasphemy and Jesus' popularity threatened their control over the population.

Ultimately they wanted rid of him. And by the day we call 'Good Friday' they had had him tried before the local and the Roman authorities and he found himself being beaten, a crown of thorns rammed onto his head (an ironic reference to the fact that some saw him as a 'King') and he had to carry his own cross through the streets of Jerusalem, through the crowds, being mocked and taunted and laughed at!

The story of Jesus' final hours and his death on that cross at a place called Calvary outside the Jerusalem city walls is documented in the New Testament of the Bible, including in the book of Matthew and Chapters 26 and 27 ,  if you have time to do so, please do read that account today.

It was a horrible death, bloody and brutal, designed not just to punish the person being nailed to a cross of wood and left to hang until they died, but also to warn those watching that THIS is what was in store for them if they, too, dared to defy authority.

There are many songs associated with this day, some very traditional. But this one and this particular version by the Gaither Vocal Band, always stirs my heart as on Good Friday I once again think about what Jesus did two thousand years ago, and what he's still doing for me today.

No pictures on this video. Maybe just close your eyes and listen to the words.

And be blessed!

*this song now on my You Tube channel 


A Prayer for Our World

Today, as we move towards the end of Holy Week ... and Good Friday tomorrow ... I'm just taking time out for a bit of reflection.

And I'm helped by a great prayer which reminds me of the need to let go of past hurts and to build a world of peace and hope, regardless of our race, faith and who we are.

Thanks to Rabbi Harold S Kushner for his wisdom.

Hope you love it as much as I do.

A prayer for the the world Rabbi Harold S. Kushner

 


Spy Wednesday

Today is Wednesday ... but not just any old Wednesday.

Some call today 'Holy Wednesday', others know it as 'Spy Wednesday'.  

But why? SPy Wednesday

Well, as you may know by now, this is Holy Week - or Passion Week. It's the time  Christians remember the final days of Jesus Christ on earth. From the crowds cheering him into Jerusalem on what we call 'Palm Sunday', to his trial and hideous death on a cross outside the city, in the company of criminals. 

But in between there are significant moments. We remember that in the last week of Jesus' life, he turfed out traders from the holy temple, he preached and taught, he spent time with his followers and friends. He was arrested and tried in a kangaroo court.

And somewhere in the middle, he was betrayed by one of his friends and followers, a man called Judas Iscariot.

Judas was one of the original 12 friends and followers, the disciples of Jesus. Hand picked by Jesus to share his ministry and learn from him, and eventually be there to continue the work and the mission when Jesus was no longer around. Judas had been with Jesus for three years.

So why did he turn against him?

Remember a few days ago I was saying that among the people who followed Jesus were those who hoped that he would be not just a teacher and preacher or even a miracle worker, but that he would become a focal figure in a revolution against the Romans and the Jewish religious establishment? Well, it's thought that Judas might have been among those who hoped his 'Rabbi', his spiritual leader, would be more than just a healer and an itinerant preacher.

But as Judas lived and worked with Jesus, he maybe began to realise that this gentle, charismatic personality didn't want or seek political power. He wasn't about that. He was about love and compassion and bringing people to God. His message was about community, and people being kind and helping each other out. He was about caring for the sick and the poor and the isolated. Jesus was about loving the unloved. Not about power and status, or money and possessions.

This must have frustrated Judas no end. Seeing the crowds around Jesus, he must have had hopes that it would become more. He disagreed with Jesus' generosity, and as the one in the group that looked after the money he was the man who criticised Jesus when he allowed a woman called Mary to pour a bottle of expensive perfume over him. This 'anointing' was a sign of love, but also a symbolic gesture that seemed to foretell the sacrifice that Jesus would make in giving up his life. But all Judas could see was the waste of money.

It must have been common knowledge among the followers of Jesus that he was putting himself in danger by going to Jerusalem. Jesus had narked off the religious authorities, the Pharisees and the Sanhedrin, and they were looking for a way to arrest him. But the sacred Jewish festival of Passover was approaching and they wouldn't want to arrest him in public, especially as Jesus was so popular with ordinary people. They risked a riot.

So they decided to get him while he was pretty much undefended.

Jesus and his followers, as Jews, would be preparing to observe the Passover. The festival begins with a meal - the Seder  - which is a ritual observation on the eve of Passover. This particular meal taken by Jesus and his friend has become known as The Last Supper. Then Jesus and some of the disciples went to the Garden of Gethsemane - on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem - where Jesus wanted to pray. He knew what was coming and he needed that time apart to prepare himself.

But Judas had already gone. He'd been with the religious leaders, accepted thirty pieces of silver as a payment for betraying Jesus. After midnight, Judas arrived in the Garden accompanied by armed officers and other men provided by the religious leaders. Judas, as a signal of which person to arrest, gave Jesus a kiss. Jesus is arrested, turned over to the Roman authorities, tired, and within days is killed - crucified.

And, realising the ill he had done, Judas hanged himself. Perhaps he didn't realise the priests wanted Jesus dead. Regretting his part in the arrest of Jesus, he tried to return the money but the religious leaders refused to take it. Judas threw the money into the temple and hanged himself.

So today on this 'Spy Wednesday' we remember Judas and his part in Jesus' story. But that word 'spy' is so interesting.

These days we think of spies as secret agents, and Judas was certainly no James Bond. Not a glamorous personality at all.

But the word 'spy' means more  - it can also mean 'plant', 'snooper', 'fifth columnist', someone who is in a group but whose motives are to undermine the group. That could describe Judas. A spy in the camp. And the word 'spy' can also mean 'ambush' and 'ensnare' which is certainly what happened in the Garden of Gethsemane. 

Down the centuries, theologians and philosophers have discussed Judas' part in the events that led to the arrest and crucifixion of Jesus Christ, and Judas' motives. Greed? A love of money? A lust for power? Some sort of twisted theology? Some have even concluded that it was somehow in 'the Plan' - there are references in the Bible that Jesus knew one of his closest friends would betray him. That's hard to even think about. 

Judas has gone down in history as a pariah, an outcast, a devil.

But the question that always comes to my mind when I think about him is this ... am I so perfect?

Have I always been true to my faith, represented Jesus, been the person he might want me to be ... a person like him - loving, caring, compassionate, truth-seeking? Someone who thinks of others before themselves? And have I always stood up for my faith? Always stood up for Jesus? Have I never denied him, even by my silence when I needed to speak up? 

It's a hard one to face but on this 'Spy Wednesday', halfway through Holy Week, halfway to the crucifixion of Jesus and ahead of Easter ... it's a question I need to keep asking myself.

 

 


First Step

Today I'm feeling rather wrung out. 

After an emotional week, saying goodbye to a full time job, and friends and colleagues,  moving into a new adventure, not really knowing what that adventure will hold, it's suddenly hit me like a sledgehammer on the top of my head!

After a few weeks of changing circumstances at work which left me in turmoil and having to quickly make life-altering decisions, the pressure to reach a conclusion was immense. But it needed to be done. 

And once the decision was made, I was determined to focus on all the work that I needed to complete, all the handovers, all the goodbyes not just to colleagues but to the hundreds of people I worked with closely as a Communities Journalist on a BBC local radio station. I had to deal with disappointment and shock from some, and there was much explaining to do. But I was overwhelmed by the encouragement and support in my ultimate decision from friends, family and acquaintances across the world. 

All the emails and telephone conversations. So many hours sat at the computer, into the early hours. 

And then - suddenly - it's over. All is quiet. No more rushing around. In my case, no demands for Zoom meetings, no projects to produce and edit for broadcast. No people to call. Nothing to plan for radio programmes for the future. Just ... nothing!

It hits you. There's nothing!

Yesterday - the start of a working week with no full time work - I was in a daze, and today I'm exhausted.

Sometimes life and change is like that, isn't it? You somehow manage to crash on day-to-day despite the mayhem that might be all around. You hardly have time to breathe with all the 'busyness' of what is happening, you don't have a moment to really take in the significance of what is actually going on. 

And then - suddenly - it's over.

Today is one of those days for me.

It's Holy Week - the week running up to Easter - so I'm trying to take time out just to rest and reflect on all that means in terms of my faith, and my life, and how that shapes who I am and my future.

But so much has happened in the past few weeks that has meant so much change, so quickly. I can't muster the energy right now to make any plans, and I'm trying not to get my head in a spin about what will come.  As a person of faith, I'm praying about the future, but at the moment not asking for anything, just trusting for guidance in the future.

The journey into the new adventure has not yet started. But it will. Once I am rested in my body and mind and spirit. It will.

Then I came across this quote which says it all for me today.

It's encouraged me to believe that once I'm ready to take the first step into the new adventure ... I will have the faith, and courage and the energy to place my foot on the first step of that new staircase in my life.

 

 

Faith staircase


Holy Week

So yesterday was Palm Sunday ... the start of what in the church we call 'Holy Week'!

As I said yesterday, when Jesus rode triumphantly into Jerusalem, there were many in the crowd who welcomed him and who truly believed in him.

His followers, his 'disciples', had spent three years with him. They knew him well. They had heard him preaching and teaching, performing miracles. They were among those who had come to understand that Jesus was more than a man. They would have been among those who were coming to believe, or hope, that he was the 'Messiah', the Chosen One promised by God down many millennia, who would come to save the People of Israel.

There were those, too, who had been healed by Jesus, those who had seen those miracles, had heard him preach and had hung on his every word. They believed he was special. A 'Master', a 'Rabbi', a man who they could follow, with his message of peace and love and fairness.

And there were those who, perhaps, saw him a leader who would stand up to the Roman authorities who ruled the people with an iron fist, and who would also defy the religious leaders who also wanted to ensure a compliant population. As Jesus rode into the city of Jerusalem, this group might have wondered why he was riding on a donkey and not a white charger like a hero should. But they may well have thought that this event heralded historic revelation and revolution. This group didn't really know much about the person who was Jesus, even if momentarily they wanted to believe in him. 

However, within a few days, a confusing, an astonishing few days, those crowds who cheered him on the road to Jerusalem would be screaming for Jesus' death. His friends and disciples would desert him, he would be mocked and tried and killed by those who feared his influence and the claims that he might be the Messiah, and the rumours that people thought he might be a king, or the Son of God.From Triumph to what some thought was Disaster, writer Cathy Le Feuvre thinks about the events of Holy Week !

And all in the space of a week.

Now, I'm no theologian. People much cleverer than I will, I'm sure, be able to explain the significance of Holy Week over the next few days.

But I wanted to start the week trying to give you an inkling of this important final week in the (earthly) life of Jesus because it appears that each moment ... from the day he took that donkey ride through the Jerusalem city gates to the moment he perished, nailed to a cross like a common criminal ... each day was full of significance.

And I found this brilliant photo ... this 'Holy Week Treasure Map' outlining the events of these days. It sort of tells the tale...

But if you fancy reading more about it - there's a brilliant book called the Bible .. the New Testament has the story!

HolyWeekTreasureMap-HQ

 

 


Be Gentle

I am a very fortunate person. 

I have many friends, all over the world. People from lots of different parts of my life - my childhood, my school years, my church and faith life, my working life down the years.

And since social media became 'a thing' I've been able to reconnect with so many people with whom I'd lost contact. These days, no matter where we are in the world or whether we are living through a pandemic which so restricts our lifestyles, we can talk to each other, support each other, encourage each other, all via the magic of the internet.

I know lots of people find social media toxic, and sometimes it can be. But I have to say on Facebook I'm generally surrounded by good friends. By and large, positivity reigns.

Recently I've shared some news on Facebook - I'm about to leave my job at the BBC and have a new work adventure. Long story short ... my contract with the corporation was up for renewal and unfortunately the offer that was made to me would have added more responsibilities to an already busy workload, so I decided not to sign the new deal.

Which means that of today (Friday March 26th) I will no longer work for 'Auntie'. 

So, last Sunday I put a post on my Facebook page, just to tell everyone. Although it was only a couple of days since it had all been agreed, the news had already begun to filter into the atmosphere, so I thought ...'I'll tell everyone'.

I don't have a job to go to ... I'm planning to return to the freelance lifestyle that I once enjoyed ... and I'm not made of money,  so a lot of people might find a decision to just walk away from a job hard to understand. But I was inundated with lovely messages. Messages of support and affirmation and encouragement.

Maybe that says something about how people perceive me. Those who have known me for a while may be aware that I'm not adverse to a bit of risk-taking and daring to go on new adventures, but they also know that I don't take these steps on a whim.

Being a person of faith, I'm a bit of a Pray-er ... so I have prayed a lot about this. I've thought much about it, to the detriment of my sleep. I've made my usual 'pros and cons' lists, which involves making two lists - one of the positives of staying in the job and the negatives of leaving it, another of the negatives of staying the in job and the positives of leaving. If you get what I mean.

And I've chatted to a few people, not to help with the decision, but to weigh all my options in the balance.

SO - decision made - I posted on Facebook. And, as I said, got loads of support and, I have to say, a little advice from a few friends. And that counsel was the same over and over.

Give yourself some time. Try not to rush into the future without resting a little. After leaving such a busy job which has made so many demands on my time and my energy, breathe a little before launching into new commitments.

But I think the most useful and thought provoking message I received was this  

Be gentle

I love this.

Being 'gentle'  means so much.

I'm encouraged to be kind to myself and not beat myself up about what's past and the decision I've made, especially in those moments - and they are bound to come - when I'm wondering what the (......!) I've done by giving up a well-paid job!

Being 'gentle' on myself encourages me to forgive myself if I begin to doubt my decision, but also to remain humble and not to think arrogantly and unrealistically about the future, but instead to take things a little cautiously.

I'm encouraged through this piece of advice to find peace within myself, and to  seek stillness in my spirit. 

I could go on ... but I'm sure you get my drift.

So as I enter this new phase of life, thanks to all my friends for their great encouragement and support of me in my new adventure and for their great words of wisdom.

But thanks especially to my friend Alison Fox for this particular thought which she shared with me. Alison is, among other things, a counsellor and psychotherapist - so she knows what she's talking about! 

And, as I move into this new chapter of my professional life, I will keep her advice and encouragement in mind.

And if, today, this thought helps you, please feel free to join me!

 

 

 


An Irish Blessing for St Patrick's Day

Today - March 17th - is St Patrick's Day.

It's the day that Ireland and Irish people or those of Irish descent across the world celebrate - well, BEING Irish - and one of their most important patron saints. In 'normal times' much partying is done , much Guinness is drunk and shamrocks are worn, but importantly it's a day when many people go to church to remember St Patrick and give thanks for him, because it is, first and foremost, a spiritual/holy day.

Don't worry, I'm not going to start a whole essay about St Patrick. That would take far too long because it's a very complicated story, with many twists and turns, legends and stories of miracles.

Just some highlights.

Patrick wasn't Irish but was born in Roman Britain. When he was about 16 he was captured by Irish pirates and taken as a slave to the island of Ireland, where he mostly looked after animals for about six years. It's while he was looking after those sheep that it's believed he 'found God'. He escaped and managed to get home to his family where he studied Christianity and eventually became a priest. Later he returned to the place where he had been imprisoned to spread the Christian message to the Irish, who mostly practised a form of paganism ... the ancient Celtic religion.

And if you're wondering why the shamrock, or the three leaf clover, is a symbol of Ireland on this day in particular, it's because Patrick is said to have used the little plant with the three leaves to explain the Christian Holy Trinity - God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit - to those he was hoping to convert.

Patrick didn't have it easy. Standing up to the local warlords, often apparently getting beaten up, sometimes being imprisoned and threatened with execution. But he continued his mission and although there is evidence of a Christian presence in Ireland before Patrick, he is generally considered as the founder of the faith there. He became a bishop and is known as the 'Apostle of Ireland',  and his feast day is marked on March 17th, the day it's thought he died.

But we can't be exactly sure. There's lots of mystery surrounding Patrick, even question marks over when he lived. It's generally believed that he was a missionary in Ireland during the fifth century, and by the seventh century, he had become revered as the patron saint of Ireland.

So today, to mark the day and to celebrate the man who was St Patrick and the legacy of faith he brought to Ireland, I leave you with one of my favourite Irish Blessings.

 

Irish blessing road
*Oh and if you're wondering, the 'road' in this picture is La Grande Route de St Ouen in Jersey.