prayer

The Road Home

Next Tuesday - October 26th - at St Thomas' Roman Catholic Church in Jersey there will be a very special event.

It's a Service of Remembrance and Thanksgiving, and it's an opportunity for all of us to remember those who have died and who meant something special to us and to celebrate their lives.

The service has been organised by a local Funeral Directors - Pitcher and Le Quesne - who have held similar events before, but of course in the past couple of years that's been impossible because of the COVID19  restrictions.

We know that since the pandemic began, so many of us have been unable to to remember loved ones in the way we may have wanted. Either we've had limited opportunities to say a proper 'farewell' or we've been unable to travel to pay our respects and to grieve with families members and friends. So next Tuesday is an opportunity to celebrate and give thanks for the lives that meant, and still mean, so much to us.

But the service is not just for folk who've lost someone in the pandemic ... it's open to everyone who wants to keep alive the memories of their dear ones, even if they passed away years ago.

PLQ-remembrance-facebook (2)The evening, which starts at 7pm, will be just an hour of poems, readings, prayers, music and ... we hope ... smiles along with the sadness.

Church and faith leaders will play their part, and we'll have the magnificent Malcolm L'Amy on the organ at St Thomas' ... which is in Val Plaisant in St Helier (if you don't know it ... it's the big Catholic Church!) 

But we'll also be joined by some amazing singers. 

Georgi Mottram is a Jersey-born soprano. She's already a Classic Brit Award Nominee who’s debut single shot to No.1 in the iTunes Official Classical Charts in May 2021. Georgi is a very special talent and we're so thrilled she'll be joining us.

The Aureole Choir will also be part of the evening. The choir (founder and director Nicki Kennedy) was set up during the early stages of lockdown in early 2020 to give people who love singing a chance to celebrate their love for music. They initially met online and recorded music to raise money for local charities but now have over 100 members of all ages who meet regularly to sing, have fun and fundraise. They also run weekly ‘sing-alongs’ (with requests) to boost morale among those living alone and in Jersey’s care homes. They're a great bunch of people, so talented and so committed!

Next Tuesday will be an evening, as I said, which will be reflective, but it will also be filled, we trust, with smiles and hope!

During and after the service there will be an opportunity to remember loved ones and leave messages in a ‘memorial garden' at the back of church and those who wish to do so are also invited to give a donation to the Royal British Legion Jersey Poppy Appeal. That appeal actually starts next week!

Now you might be wondering why I know so much about this?

Well, it's because I've been working on this for months with the managing director of Pitcher and Le Quesne, Paul Battrick, and St Thomas' Church ... helping to communicate, finding the artists and speakers, sourcing the poems and prayers etc and getting involved in a little bit of PR as well.

I have to say, it's one of the best 'jobs' I've had for a very long time. It feels like we are doing something which will make a big difference to people and maybe bring help and comfort in their sorrow and grief.  But hopefully it will also just be a general uplifting hour! It's made me really happy to be involved, but also it's given me much time for reflection myself, and moments when I've been moved by words and music and remembered MY loved ones, including my darling Dad, who have 'gone before'.

If you are in Jersey on Tuesday, we would love to see you! If you are not here in the island, please pray for us, that people will come and be blessed. It's a big church and we'd love to see many people... and we hope it will bless us all.

So, on this Sunday, to bring you all into the circle of love we hope will surround us on Tuesday evening, please click on the link below to see/hear a presentation that will be part of the Service of Remembrance and Thanksgiving.

It will be the first of two musical offerings from the Aureole Choir  and it's actually one of the first projects they produced when Jersey was in lockdown in Spring 2020. The song and video (which is on YouTube as well as the Aureole Music website) raised money for local charities, and it brought music into our lives at a time when choirs could not meet, we could not sing even in church (and anyway churches were closed)  and we felt so bereft of the joys of music and performance.

Enjoy the beautiful Jersey landscapes and seascapes and images and people, and the even more beautifully talented islanders who joined together for this very special project.

See you on Tuesday! 

 

 


Give Thanks

Spiritual thoughts come from many different directions, and I think this year so far I've turned to a few in this daily blog. 

Today I turn to the wisdom of a man called Tecumseh who lived in the late 18th and early 19th century in what is now 'America'.

He was a chief of the Shawnee tribe and a warrior who resisted the expansion of the United States onto Native American lands. He wanted to draw  the different tribes to his cause so he travelled widely trying to encourage different indigenous peoples to support the resistance to the expansion of the 'incomers' who were determined to take over their lands. This resulted in a Native American confederacy and although his efforts to unite Native Americans ended with his death in the War of 1812, his legacy did not die with him. Tecumseh has become an iconic folk hero in American, Indigenous, and Canadian popular history.

Native Americans were and are a very spiritual people, with a culture, philosophy and spirituality close to the land and nature, animals and the universe, and although Tecumseh and his peoples lived so long ago and in very different times, some of the thoughts that have been handed down through the centuries are profound and are really pertinent to our circumstances today. They go to the heart of what it is to be 'human' and that is so thought-provoking.

So, for this Saturday, here's one of those wise Native American thoughts ... attributed to Tecumseh himself.

Once you've asked yourself these challenging questions ... Have a happy day !

Saturday thanks


Beautiful Wednesday

Midway through a busy week, if we can let's take a moment to just stop and breathe and think.

If you're the praying type, maybe pray as well.

Forget the stress for a moment or two, put aside your 'to do' list and all the challenges you think you are facing.

Let's just close our eyes and forget all the distractions.

Maybe reflect on this thought!

And have a wonderful day!

Beautiful Wednesday


God in ....

For this Sunday I simply offer this prayer. 

From the Celtic tradition, it's a prayer which for many many centuries has been spoken - out loud and in the silence of a prayerful moment -  bringing comfort, challenge and inspiration. 

If you have  a moment or two today to think of the Divine and the Almighty ... may I humbly suggest that this might be a good place to start?

Have a blessed day!

God in


Imagine

IMAGINE!

You just need to say the word and immediately a particular song starts resonating in my head and heart.

It's a classic 'pop' song, that is much more than a 'pop song', by one of the legends of pop and rock music - the inimitable John Lennon ... he of the legendary pop group The Beatles ... singer, songwriter, musician, peace activist ... what a guy!

I'm thinking about John today specifically because it was on this day (October 9th) in 1940 that John Winston Lennon ... later John Winston Ono Lennon ... came into the world. 

Today I could have chosen SO many songs to celebrate John Lennon - and those of you who know me might have thought I might choose one like Strawberry Fields Forever which is directly linked to a Salvation Army children's home in Liverpool of that name in the grounds of which Lennon played as a child. Today it is an amazing centre run by The Salvation Army which works with the community and people with special needs, and pays tribute to the Lennon legacy.

But no ...  instead I've chosen another of John's iconic songs, composed and recorded and released after his time with The Beatles had come to an end.

IMAGINE!

Rolling Stone magazine described Imagine as Lennon's "greatest musical gift to the world" ... for many many reasons musically ... I won't go on about that now, but if you're interested, please feel free to investigate by clicking on the link embedded in the name of the song above.

Actually the eponymous album on which the song appeared was released in the USA in October 1971,  a month after the international release in the UK.... and the single was the best-selling one of John's solo career.

ImagineIt's a song which resounds with people around the world. 

Some believe this song is 'anti-faith' but I don't think it is. It actually encourages us to imagine a world of peace, without borders separating nations and peoples and without materialism which divides. Yes, it says 'no religion' but note it doesn't say 'no faith', and the two are very different.

John Lennon is credited with writing the song but just before his death in December 1980 he said that much of the song's content and the lyrics came from his wife, Yoko Ono. 

In an interview, actually for Playboy magazine, Lennon said that he and Yoko had been given a Christian prayer book which inspired the concept behind Imagine

He said this:

The concept of positive prayer ... If you can imagine a world at peace, with no denominations of religion – not without religion but without this my God-is-bigger-than-your-God thing – then it can be true ... the World Church called me once and asked, "Can we use the lyrics to 'Imagine' and just change it to 'Imagine one religion'?" That showed [me] they didn't understand it at all. It would defeat the whole purpose of the song, the whole idea. 

Some might think this sounds rather 'pie in the sky', but I love John Lennon's sentiment and he and Yoko's idea that we can dream of the world living as one ... one day!

So, to celebrate John Lennon and this brilliant song, here's the official video for Imagine, which is also iconic.

I love that the first 45seconds actually has no music ... but just the sound effects of John and Yoko walking. I love it's rather surreal concept ... rather like the song actually.

It's actually the first few minutes of a longer 81-minute feature-length film or 'documentary rock video' that was made to coincide with the launch of the Imagine album.

From the shots of John and Yoko walking through a thick fog and mist, arriving at their house as the music begins, to a sign above the front door to their house which reads: "This Is Not Here" (the title of Yoko Ono's then New York art show) and then to the interior shots of John at the piano as Yoko gradually opens the shutters to let in the daylight and reveal an all-white room. It's all so symbolic. But the end is where it gets me. Until that moment it all feels like a piece of art really, including when Yoko sits down beside John at the piano as he concludes the song, and she just looks at the camera.

But then ... as the song ends ... the couple look at each other and ... wait for it ... they kiss!

Fabulous! 

So let's sit back and enjoy the song today ... and dream.

 

Oh and by the way ... remember earlier I told you about the Strawberry Field project in Liverpool? 

Well, click on the link and you'll find information about the 'Imagine' Piano which is there.

It's actually THE world-famous piano that John Lennon used to compose and record one of the great peace anthems of the 20th century and it's on loan to the exhibition, courtesy of the estate of the late George Michael. It's a walnut-finished upright Steinway model Z piano and George bought it back in October 2000.

I haven't seen it myself yet but I'm looking forward to going to Strawberry Field when I can!


Sunday Blessings

This Sunday I'm turning for inspiration to one of my favourite Christian  traditions - Celtic or Irish spirituality.

There's something in the words of the Celtic blessings and prayers that I think really touches the heart of what we humans want to say and pray, even when we don't know it.

The words are often simple but in their simplicity there is profound meaning which grows in time. Sometimes I have to read these prayers over and over and the power of the words becomes clearer in each reading. In those contemplative moments, we learn more about ourselves and the desires of our heart.

So, today, this is my prayer for you.

Sunday Blessings, everyone!

Have a wonderful day!

 

Sunday Irish blessings


When you Pray

Happy Sunday everyone!

Just want to encourage you today with this thought!

I don't know whether you're a church sort of person, or a praying type, or someone who believes that God can intervene in our lives.

But if, like me, you are all that - hope this encourages you today.

Have a great day everyone!

When you pray

 

 


Never Forget

Where were you on Tuesday September 11th 2001? 

It's a date that, of course, goes down in history as one of the saddest and most shocking of modern times.

And today it's 20 years since what has become known as '9/11', that infamous terrorist attack on the United States of America

Four commercial airlines were hijacked mid-flight by 19 al-Qaeda terrorists.  Two of the aircraft were deliberately crashed into the World Trade Centre,  the iconic Twin Towers in New York City, with the subsequent collapse of those towers. A third was crashed into the west side of the Pentagon in Washington DC, the headquarters of the American military. A fourth was also hijacked and was also destined for the USA capital, but the brave passengers on board attempted to gain back control of the aircraft, which subsequently crashed instead in a field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania.

Of course, it's the image of the burning Twin Towers that remains in most of our memories and that's why many of us remember where we were on that day.

At the time I was Head of Broadcast of a small (somewhat experimental) TV station in Hertfordshire in England. It was called 'Home TV' and it broadcast just to the towns of Hertford and nearby Ware and surrounding areas ... the forerunner, one might say, of the small digital and cable stations that sprang up later. We ran local news, sports and weather mostly, mixed in with other interesting 'bought in' programmes and national news from SKY TV.

Some members of my small team and I were in the operations room, the control room from which we controlled transmission. It's a room with lots of TV monitors which allow the directors and engineers to see what's coming in and what being transmitted to our viewers. The SKY TV news feed monitor was always on so we could see what they were running, even if we were not 'taking' the live feed at the time.

It was around 2 o'clock in the afternoon and we were having a news planning meeting for the next upcoming local news bulletin - scheduled for 6pm - when we looked up to see the SKY TV monitor flick to pictures of the World Trade Centre in New York, with one of the towers (the North Tower)  ablaze. We turned up the sound to hear those words 'News coming in of ....'

We all stood there, pretty shocked, I have to say. And then, a few moments later,  we saw it ... the second aircraft plough into the South Tower.

It was devastating! It was at at THAT point that I realised that this had to be a terrorist attack rather than an airline crash or accident.

But with my news head on I also realised that we needed to break into our regular programmes and show what was happening there across the Atlantic in New York City and, as it transpired, in Washington DC and other parts of the USA.

We had to have special permission to dip into SKY TV outside of our contracted hours, so I picked up the phone to their control desk.

All I said was 'Home TV in Hertford, we're taking your news feed now!' I guessed that no one there would be able to answer questions because of the seriousness of the events unfolding, and I figured that if we were in trouble for taking the feed, we'd deal with that later. We flicked live to the SKY TV feed and stayed with it all day. Somehow, news of what was happening in two small provisional towns in the UK seemed immaterial at the time, as did re-runs of cartoons and natural history programmes and sports compilations.

I really can't remember if we did a 6 o'clock bulletin. What with trying to get reaction from local people and working with the small team of largely young and inexperienced staff who were, understandably, rather traumatised by the day, September 11 2001 became a bit of a blur.

It was only when I went home late that night and sat down to watch the national BBC News that the enormity of the day began to settle on me. 

That day 2,977 people were killed and more than 6,000 others were injured. The immediate deaths included 265 on the four planes (including the terrorists), 2,606 in the World Trade Centre and in the surrounding area, and 125 at the Pentagon.  Most of those who died were civilians but we know that 344 firefighters and 71 law enforcement officers died in the World Trade Centre and on the ground in New York City. Another law enforcement officer died when United Airlines Flight 93 crashed into that  field near Shanksville and 55 military personnel perished in the attack on the Pentagon.

Of the 2,977 people who died, 2,605 were U.S. citizens and 372 non-U.S. citizens - all were loved, had families, some were dads and mums and grandparents. Each person is a hole in the life of someone else. 

9/11 is the deadliest terrorist attack on the USA and, in fact, in world history. Over the past two decades we've seen the experiences of that day played out on TV over and over and over. I think that must just be awful for those who lost someone that day, especially in the Towers, as they are being constantly reminded of their precious loved ones final moments of life.

Of course, we know that the 9/11 attacks led to an invasion of Afghanistan, where the al-Qaeda terrorists were allowed sanctuary, the eventual killing of the mastermind behind it - Osama bin Laden - and 20 years of Allied troops on the ground, with the loss of many more thousands of lives. American and British and other military personnel who were killed or injured in the subsequent years of battle and not forgetting the many many thousands of  innocent Afghanis who got caught in the cross fire. It's only last month - August 2021 - that the allies have moved out, leaving the country once again in disarray and once again under the control of the Taliban ... itself a radical Islamic group. But that's another story.

In the intervening years I was privileged to hear some of the personal stories of those who were directly affected by the events of 9/11. People who were on holiday in New York city and saw the events unfold in front of them. People who served at 'Ground Zero' (the place where the towers fell) for many months afterward, including chaplains and others from The Salvation Army in New York City and the wider north eastern provinces. People back here in the UK who were also affected and traumatised.

So today, as I have done every year  since that infamous day in 2001, I take time out to remember all those precious souls lost on that dreadful day.

I pray for their family, friends, loved ones, colleagues. I pray for the children who never knew their fathers, all those lives unfulfilled and the doors closed too soon.

And I remember them.

It's twenty years since that terrible day and we should NEVER forget them!

911


Do Small Things with Great Love

There are some people who are just iconic. Legendary! 

I'm sure you can think of a few ... for me they may include Nelson Mandela, Barack Obama, William Shakespeare, Queen Victoria, Neil Armstrong  ... that's an eclectic mix but you know what I'm talking about.

People who are not just famous for what they did, what they wrote or who they were but also because they are ... or were ... just outstanding members of the human race. Yes, they are part of the history books or will be in the future, but it's more than that.

Not all iconic people have lived 'good' lives ...sometimes they are notorious for leaving behind a dark legacy ... let's think of Jack the Ripper for instance or similar serial killers ... these are people who become legends for all the wrong reasons.

But MY list of people who I consider to be 'icons' don't include those guys ... I'm more interested in those who made a real difference to their times and cultures, and those who  left or who will leave a real legacy of positivity.

One of those at the top of my LEGENDS list is a woman who in her time lived a very humble life but who made an incredible impact on the world ... not just on the people around her but also those who looked to her as an example of love and faith.

Today I celebrate the birth and life of Mother Teresa - Saint Teresa of Calcutta.

Born on this day - August 26th - in the year 1910, in Albania, Mary Teresa Bojaxhiu would grow up to be a world icon ... but actually she lived a very quiet and compassionate existence which was all about OTHERS. An indication of her religious life and the importance of it to her is the fact that ... so I read ... Mother Teresa actually considered August 27th to be her 'true birthday' because that was the day she was baptised into the Roman Catholic faith, aged just one day.

Please click on the link to her name above to find out more about this amazing woman, but I just want to say that very early in life she became fascinated by the stories of the lives of missionaries, especially in India, and by the age of 12 she became determined to commit herself to a religious life.

In 1928 at the age of 18 she left home to join the Sisters of Loreto at Loreto Abbey in Rathfarnham in Ireland, with the intention of learning English to help her with her aim of becoming a missionary ... English was the language of instruction of the Sisters of Loreto in India.

Just a year later she arrived in India where she trained as a nun ( actually in Darjeeling, in the lower Himalayas). Here she learned Bengali and taught at a school. When she took her religious vows in May 1931, she chose to be named after Thérèse de Lisieux, the patron saint of missionaries.

Her life and mission and Christian ministry would be India. By 1950, Teresa founded the Missionaries of Charity, a Roman Catholic religious congregation that by 2012 had over 4,500 nuns and was active in 133 countries.  The congregation and order runs homes for people who are dying of HIV/AIDS, leprosy and tuberculosis. In addition, they also run orphanages and schools, soup kitchens, mobile clinics and dispensaries and children's and family counselling programmes.

Vows of chastity, poverty, and obedience define the lives of the nuns, but to this is added a fourth profession of faith - to  give "wholehearted free service to the poorest of the poor."

Even though I'm not a Roman Catholic, growing up I was aware of Mother Teresa and the work she did, especially in the city of Calcutta (now renamed Kolkata) in West Bengal in India.  For me she was always the epitome of love. She worked with the 'poorest of the poor', advocated on their behalf and loved them unconditionally.

Mother Teresa

There are many quotes attributed to Mother Teresa.

She apparently once said '

"By blood, I am Albanian. By citizenship, an Indian. By faith, I am a Catholic nun. As to my calling, I belong to the world. As to my heart, I belong entirely to the Heart of Jesus."

She gave her entire life really to service in the name of Jesus Christ.  Her own needs and desires and wishes cast aside to enable her to think of others before herself and  just love.

And I think one of my favourite Mother Teresa quotes is this one ... .

"Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love."

When you look at the words, the depth of meaning grows over time.

We might all want to 'change the world' ... some of those on my list of Icons at the start of this blog did just that!

But that wasn't what Mother Teresa was about. She was just walking one day at a time, looking for the need around her, helping where she could. Just making small differences which, in the end, would change lives.

The discarded babies she saved from dying on the streets, the people she and her nuns fed every day, the families counselled and cared for, the hands of people dying from AIDS or leprosy held in love, the many many thousands who still, today, receive free medical treatment courtesy of the Missionaries of Charity, the children saved from conflict and natural disasters - yes she did leave India from time to time to help in other situations.

Each person's life altered, made more comfortable. Hope given. Friendship and love shared. 

That's beyond measure!

And then there's her legacy of devotion and Christian faith. THAT is also something that can't be measured.

So today, as we celebrate the life of Mother Teresa, perhaps we can remember this one thing.

No action done in love is wasted. We might not change laws or move mountains, or even receive rewards,  but today ... if we do just one act of love for another ... we might just change their circumstances, make it easier, give them hope and surround them with the knowledge of love! 

 


In His Hands

Life is a Roller Coaster - there's a pop song which expresses that sentiment isn't there? 

And it's true! 

Ups and down, valleys and mountain tops. And life can change very quickly. One minute things are going along nicely, then something can happen which changes not just the present but the future - illness, bereavement, new opportunities, unexpected meetings. 

I've been thinking a lot about that recently. 

Sometimes the change is of our own making, and we can plan the transition from one phase to another, but at other times life is beyond our control.  

Stuff Happens.

It's Sunday so I'm having a spiritual thought or ten, and I'm encouraged by the fact that whatever life might throw at me I believe I'm not on my own.  My Christian faith reassures me that wherever life might take me, God is there, even if I don't always take notice of him. Even if he allows us to go through challenges, he doesn't desert us. And when we have joys beyond compare, he's also always there!

I'm in His Hands!

There's a great song which I think I have been singing all my life. It's popular in The Salvation Army church and the words are profound and encouraging.

Originally written by an American Salvation Army leader and musician, (Commissioner) Stanley E. Ditmer and the words are so deep and yet the message is also simple...

I'm in His handsI shall not fear though darkened clouds may gather round me;
The God I serve is one who cares and understands;
Although the storms I face would threaten to confound me,
Of this I am assured: I’m in His hands.

I’m in His hands, I’m in His hands;
Whate’er the future holds, I’m in His hands;
The days I cannot see have all been planned for me;
His way is best, you see; I’m in His hands.

What though I cannot know the way that lies before me,
I still can trust and freely follow His commands;
My faith is firm since He it is who watches o’er me;
Of this I’m confident: I’m in His hands.

In days gone by my Lord has always proved sufficient,
When I have yielded to the law of love’s demands;
Why should I doubt that He would evermore be present
To make His will my own? I’m in His hands!

The song is in the Salvation Army Song Book (Hymn Book) and in recent years another brilliant songwriter and musician, Phil Laeger., has  re-imagined 'I'm in His Hands'  to another tune, using just the chorus which repeats that phrase and reassurance over and over. The interesting thing is that although it's a new tune, those who know the original melody to Commissioner Ditmer's classis song  will hear that tune coming through in the third rendition. 

This is a piece of music which I've listened to often in recent years, especially as my life has taken different and unexpected twists and turns. Life hasn't quite worked out as I might have planned but then I've been given opportunities which I might never have had if I had got all my 'dreams' and 'wishes'.

I don't know where in your Life's Journey you are today ... but I share this with you, simply hoping that it will bring you encouragement, comfort, inspiration and peace.

Happy Sunday! And Be Blessed!