theology

Hope

Today I'm thinking about Hope!

It's something we all need, especially when things aren't going so well for us or when we are lost, or when we are grieving.

As I explained in Sunday's daily blog, this evening in Jersey there will be a service of Remembrance and Thanksgiving to allow us to celebrate the lives of our loved ones who have died. It'll be a moving hour with some reflective and uplifting music, prayers, thoughts, readings and poems.

Since the coronavirus pandemic began in 2020, many of us may have lost people, loved ones, and we may not have been able to remember them or say 'farewell' in the way we may have wished because of the lockdown restrictions. But this service is also for us to remember anyone who was and is still important to us ...I've been privileged to produce the hour for Funeral Directors Pitcher and Le Quesne, so I've spent many hours looking at different poems and readings to inspire and comfort those who will be with us this evening.

One of the readings to be included in the service at St Thomas' (Roman Catholic) Church in St Helier is this one ... a profound 'thought' from Henri Nouwen, who was a Dutch Catholic priest, professor, writer and theologian who has left us a huge legacy of words.

Nouwen was a complex character and this is traced through some of his writings, and much of what he wrote about - faith, loneliness, self-esteem, acceptance and other personal struggles - helps us to identify with his and our humanity. I find his words and writings inspirational!

This is just one of Nouwen's 'thoughts' and if today you're struggling, for whatever reason, I hope this brings you some hope.

If you are sad - I wish you comfort and hope.

If you are grieving - may hope help you to see beyond the pain.

If you feel you are getting nowhere - may hope enable you to see into a future!

And if you're in Jersey and you wish to join us this evening at St Thomas' at 7pm, you'll be very welcome.

 

Hope Henri Nouwen

 

 


Wise Words on a Friday

Rather than me rattling on today, here's a profound thought for a Friday from someone much wiser than me.

The current and 14th Dalai Lama - the title is one that is bestowed by the Tibetan people to the leading spiritual leader of the Gelug or "Yellow Hat" school of Tibetan Buddhism, which I read is the  the newest and most dominant of the four major schools of Tibetan Buddhism. And he's also one of the wisest people around.

Yes I know this is a bit deep for a Friday but we have the weekend to reflect on it and think about what it means for us.

I've read it quite a few times and every time I do I see something new in the wisdom.

Hope you find it helpful. 

Have a good day everyone!


Dalai Lama quote

 


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


The Candle of the Lord

This past few weeks I've been thinking quite a lot about light and candles. 

Although we're in the early weeks of October, I'm already commissioned to work on a few Advent and Christmas projects so I've been thinking about themes.

The idea of Jesus Christ being the Light of the World and being born to be one of us is an overriding Christmas theme and of course, candles are often synonymous with the festive season. 

It's a time when we may think a bit more than usual about the Light coming into our world but also, it's a time when I think about my responsibilities to be a person who brings light to others. A person who doesn't sow discontent and negativity, but peace and positive vibes.

For inspiration today I turn to a song written by an amazing Christian leader, singer and songwriter ... Joy Webb .... She is a Salvation Army officer (minister) who in the 1960's led a Christian pop group called 'The Joystrings' - they made it into the UK pop charts! 

Major Joy has devoted her life to God  and since those heady Joystrings days, she has blessed us with many incredible songs which are loved and appreciated, and not just in The Salvation Army.

What I love about Joy's music and songs, writing and words,  is that she really goes to the heart of what it means to be a person of faith.  Her songs, in particular,  are always 'real'. sometimes poignant, many times challenging.  Down the years, her God-inspired words and music have inspired me many times.

There's a song which Joy wrote years ago and which is still one of my favourites ... it sums up that whole idea of US following the example of Jesus and being a light in our world.

The Candle of the LordIt's called 'The Candle of the Lord' and the words are incredible ...

Please click on the link below to read the words and immerse yourself in the music.

There's are many versions online, including vocal renditions, but today I've chosen an interpretation by a friend of mine, another incredible musician called Gaz Rose ... and his imaging of the song in music and pictures/video.

Thanks Gaz!

Thanks Major Joy!

And to you all ... have a great day!

And be blessed!

 

 


Not Lost in Translation

Do you speak more than one language?

Maybe you're multi-lingual or, like me, English is my 'mother tongue' and I only speak a smattering of other languages.

A little French - that's about it. I have a few words of Kiswahili, learned when I was a child in Africa. I can say 'good morning' and 'thanks' in a few other languages but not much more than that! I can't converse in any other that the English language. 

Although many people do speak English across the world, for which I'm very grateful, there are times when we go places and we find ourselves in need of help ... we may need a 'translator'. These days there are apps on our 'phones and tech devices that can help us to translate what is being said, but also there are those clever people who make their living translating from one language to another - helping others to communicate.

Today, believe it or not, is International Translation Day  - a day for recognising translation professionals.

But  why today - September 30th?

Well, today is a celebration of St. Jerome,  who is considered the patron saint of translators.

ThursdayJerome lived in the early part of the first century - born it's thought around AD342 or AD 347. He died on this day - September 30th - in the year AD420.

Jerome was a Christian priest, theologian and historian. He is best  known for his translation of most of the Bible into Latin (the translation that became known as the Vulgate) but he also wrote other commentaries on the whole Bible. He was also known for his teachings on the Christian moral life, especially to those living in cosmopolitan centres such as Rome in his time.  Interesting point -  he often focused his attention on the lives of women and identified how a woman devoted to Jesus should live her life. This came about because he was close to several female 'ascetics' from affluent families. 

His contribution to Christianity is so appreciated that Jerome is recognised as a saint and Doctor of the Church by the Roman Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox Church, the Lutheran Church, and the Anglican Communion.

Today is Jerome's 'feast day' and also ... since 2017 ... a date set aside by the United Nations as the day when we recognise the role of professional translation and translators in connecting nations.  Apart from encouraging us all to celebrate their contribution, the United Nations today also stages an annual St. Jerome Translation Contest for translations in Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian, Spanish, and German.

I first saw translators in action when I lived in Africa - people translating sermons in church services without notes, just responding to what was being said from the pulpit! I've also seen translators work at conferences and that's amazing. They have to be so quick-thinking and alert, and the ability to listen to one language and simultaneously translate into another is a wonderful skill.

Helping others to communicate, to break down the barriers between nations and peoples, is an important contribution not just to relationships between individuals but also to peace and understanding in the world. 

Sometimes we think, arrogantly, that those who don't understand or speak OUR language must be somehow lacking. And I'm not just talking about French, Spanish, English ... or Swahili or any other 'lingo'! We expect them to be like us, act like us, fit in to our agenda - to 'speak our language' in lots of respects. And that means we may miss out on the diversity of difference. When we don't try to understand where people are coming from, let alone their actual words,  that's a shame.

So today, as we celebrate those brilliant people who help to actually translate conferences, and meetings and correspondence so that everyone is aware of what others are saying and thinking and imagining,  let's also ask ourselves whether we are making the most of our personal communications and interactions with others. Are we deliberately not attempting to understand others? Or is it just we're not paying enough attention or can't be bothered to put in the effort to see another person's viewpoint? 

If we are in danger of our relationships getting 'lost in translation',  let's determine to be better communicators, to work harder to understand other people's viewpoints.

Language is very important. Let's use our words wisely and understand the impact negative sentiments may have on another person. Positive words and actions can make us and others feel great and that sort of positivity is contagious. 

And if you do fancy learning another language ... well, why not give that a go as well?

What language might you learn?

Now that's a question.

 

 

 

 


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!

 


Song on the Summer Breeze

Happy Sunday!

For those of us who are Christians today is, of course, known as 'the Sabbath' ... a day traditionally set aside as a day of rest, a special day.

These days, however, Sunday for many is a working day. So not much rest being had.

I've never had a problem working on a Sunday because in my line of work - journalism and broadcasting - it was a necessity. And many people in many professions also have no option but to work Sundays, including doctors, nurses, carers and other health professionals.

If you like your Sunday newspaper then someone has to work in the shop to sell it, and if you enjoy a Sunday lunch out at a restaurant, then those who cook and serve your meal will, of course, be working the Sabbath. Our actions and decisions impact on the ability of others to set one day aside for rest.

For many years when I was working for at BBC Radio Jersey, I presented the Sunday morning Breakfast Show, which is still focused on all things spiritual in the island. And during that time I learnt that the 'sabbath' can be interpreted in various ways.

Although many would say Sunday should be kept special, because it's a day for church and spiritual things, I think that the main point is that us humans DO take at least one day to rest from the turmoil and 'busyness' of life.  Whatever day that might be. We can't keep working day in and day out without a break. Because we WILL break after a while.

And as for meeting God on Sundays, well of course, we can meet God any day ... every day actually ... and at any time. Although on the sabbath maybe we take more time to feel the presence of the Almighty, we can do that anytime.

Whether or not you are a person of faith, today I share these words with you which I think we can speak, or pray, whatever the time of day, whatever the day of the week.

I hope by the time you lay your head on your pillow to sleep tonight, your heart will feel lighter, your mind will be clearer, your bones will feel strong and your heart will feel like singing.

Be blessed!

Song on the Summer Breeze

 


Bow the Knee

A few weeks ago I was privileged to take part in a very special online 'gathering'.

The senior choir - the Songsters - at The Salvation Army church in Felixstowe in Suffolk in England meet every week online ... they can't meet in person because of the coronavirus, so they meet 'viritually' to stay in touch, be inspired and occasionally to hear from someone different.

So, I had the honour to speak to them, actually about my books, and then to lead them in a prayer 'devotion'. It was, I hope, 'different'.

Bow the kneeFor months a certain song has been travelling with me and has meant so much especially during the lockdowns and the uncertainty of the pandemic, so I chose this song to share with them.

This week especially it kept popping up all over the place, including on the random selection on my music library on my I-Phone. Like someone is trying to tell me something!

It's sometimes hard to pray and trust when life seems out of your control. But these words encourage me to keep trusting God however uncertain life may be. And to keep 'talking' to God and praying and believing.

So this Sunday I simply share it with you and hope it encourages you too.

The full lyrics are beneath the music video... but  the words of the chorus are worth repeating, and repeating, and repeating ...

Be blessed!

Bow the knee
Trust the heart of your Father when the answer goes beyond what you can see
Bow the knee
Lift your eyes toward heaven and believe the One who holds eternity
And when you don't understand the purpose of His plan
In the presence of the King, bow the knee

 

Bow the Knee

There are moments on our journey following the Lord
Where God illumines ev'ry step we take
There are times when circumstances make perfect sense to us
As we try to understand each move He makes
When the path grows dim and our questions have no answers, turn to Him

Bow the knee
Trust the heart of your Father when the answer goes beyond what you can see
Bow the knee
Lift your eyes toward heaven and believe the One who holds eternity
And when you don't understand the purpose of His plan
In the presence of the King, bow the knee

Bow the Knee

There are moments on our journey following the Lord
Where God illumines ev'ry step we take
There are times when circumstances make perfect sense to us
As we try to understand each move He makes
When the path grows dim and our questions have no answers, turn to Him

Bow the knee
Trust the heart of your Father when the answer goes beyond what you can see
Bow the knee
Lift your eyes toward heaven and believe the One who holds eternity
And when you don't understand the purpose of His plan
In the presence of the King, bow the knee

Bow the knee
Trust the heart of your Father when the answer goes beyond what you can see
Bow the knee
Lift your eyes toward heaven and believe the One who holds eternity
And when you don't understand the purpose of His plan
In the presence of the King, bow the knee

 

(words and music by Michael Harland and Christopher Machen)

 


What we Love ...

Most of us, even if we're not religious, may have heard of St Francis of Assisi.

You know who I'm talking about ... the 12/13th century Italian Catholic friar, mystic and preacher who is best known these days for being the Patron Saint of Animals because of his close association with nature and the natural environment and animals. 

In addition,  his 'Prayer of St Francis' ... Make Me a Channel of your Peace ...  is now widely known as a Christian prayer for peace.

It was on this day - July 16th - in 1228, just two years after his death, that Francis was canonized by Pope Gregory IX

But did you know that one of  the first followers of Francis was a young woman called Clare, who was actually born on this day in 1194?

Clare, like Francis, hailed from the town of Assisi in central Italy and was from a rich and ancient Roman family whose homes included a palace in Assisi. Clare would have been brought up in the Roman Catholic faith and apparently was very devout even as a child. Although undoubtedly she would have been destined for a rich marriage, instead when she was what we would now call a 'teenager', Clare decided on a religious life.

She apparently heard Francis speak at a church service during Lent, the period running up to Easter, and was inspired to give her life completely to God. She was just 17 but on the evening of Palm Sunday, 20 March 1212, she left her father's house and, accompanied by her aunt Bianca and another companion, went to the chapel of the Porziuncula in Assisi to meet Francis.

There, so history tells us, Clare's hair was cut, she removed her rich clothing and instead took on a plain robe and veil, indicating that she was turning her back on her previous life of luxury and was committing herself to a life of poverty and service to humanity.

Her father was furious. He tracked her down at a convent in San Paulo near Bastia where she had been placed in the care of Benedictine nuns ... but she refused to return home, and continued to profess that she would have no other 'husband' but Jesus Christ. She implored Francis to send her to an even more secluded religious community  - Sant' Angelo in Panzo - where she was soon joined by her sister Catarina, who changed her name to 'Agnes'. Both Clare and Agnes would eventually be canonized!

They remained with the Benedictines until a small dwelling was built for them next to the church of San Damiano near their hometown of Assisi.  Here Clare and Agnes gathered other religious women around them, they lived a life of poverty and seclusion from the world and they became known as the "Poor Ladies of San Damiano". Later, ten years after Clare's death in August 1253, it would become known as the Order of Saint Clare. These days the contemplative order of nuns is in 75 countries across the world but it began with just one woman and a vision from God.

While the Franciscan friars travelled around the country to preach, Saint Clare's 'sisters' existed in isolation from the world, where they lived a life of manual labour and prayer. They were barefoot, slept on the ground, ate no meat and observed almost complete silence. At one point the Pope of the day,  Gregory IX, offered Clare a 'dispensation' from the vow of strict poverty. She declined, and eventually the Pope instead granted them something called the 'Privilegium Pauperitatis' — a ruling that nobody could oblige the Clares to accept any possession. 

It's hard to imagine these days, when we're so wrapped up in belongings and 'stuff' and 'freewill', that a live of solitude and austerity could be appealing ...  but in fact Clare and her followers inspired many to join them, including more members of her own family.

Another sister, Beatrix, also joined the order and after their father's death, their mother Ortolana also entered the convent at San Damiano which followed the Franciscan monastic religious order. It was here that Clare would write their  Rule of Life, which are believed to be the first set of monastic guidelines known to have been written by a woman. 

Many words of wisdom have passed down the centuries from St Clare but I think one of my favourite thoughts from this wise Woman of God are those below.

It's such a profound thought, and could have been written for the 21st century. 

I invite you today to read these words, and reflect, as I am doing.

What is it that I 'love'? What is shaping me?

Is it 'things', possessions, power, status, money?

Is that what is shaping our lives?

Or is it just simply ... love? Compassion for others? And maybe God? 

It's a tough one ... and although it might not necessarily mean a life of seclusion and poverty, it might help us to think about what is important in our lives and what we hold dear!

 

St Clare of Assisi