Monday, 27 September 2021

A poem/thought experiment

 I went for a walk and wrote this poem/thought experiment:


At the Bridge

A dog dashes under the stile

Splashes into the stream

And bounds high through the water

Scattering spray wildly in the sun.

Tail helicoptering madly, she strains to see

If her slower human nears -

Gives a few short, sharp barks, to call him here.


I wonder what it would be like to follow God like this?

Not hold myself back, walking obediently at his heel,

But to run joyfully ahead, feeling the joy of my body and freedom -

Turning to call him to share in my delight -

Straining to see him approach -

Knowing he won't be far behind.

Monday, 6 September 2021

Hymn: River of Life

 

We've just restarted Sunday worship at St Bride's Church. At St Bride's we tend to have monthly themes, and the team putting September together decided to work with the idea of a river - from Genesis 2 to Revelation 22. I've written these hymn words to go with a well known tune, for this September series. 

You're welcome to use it, just acknowledge authorship.


River of Life (to the tune Immortal Invisible)

 

The river of faith flows from cradle to grave

From bubbling fountain to great crashing wave.

From Eden, the source of the stories we tell,

To visions of cities where all shall be well.

 

Faith shape-shifts like water, in cloud, rain and sea,

It filters through rock and will always burst free.

The truth that we need will spring up from the earth

Pure life-giving water for all those who thirst.

 

The flood of the Spirit sweeps habit away

Exposing the comforting lies that we say;

Disturbing complacency, greening dry lands

And buoying us up as we float in God’s hands.

 

From Eden, the source of the stories we tell,

To visions of cities where all shall be well;

The river of faith may be winding and slow

Yet waters all soils for all love to grow.

Wednesday, 16 June 2021

Annual Appraisal: Indicators of Esteem. A Poem

 

Having just published my latest book, of which I am very proud (How to Eat Bread: 21 Nourishing Ways to Read the Bible ), I found myself revisiting this poem I wrote several years ago. I was working at Durham University, and one of the sections on my annual appraisal form was headed 'Indicators of Esteem'. That's where you put invitations to give keynote lectures, to be an external examiner, and so on. It made me think, as you can see, about how we value ourselves. Enjoy!


Annual Appraisal: Indicators of Esteem


The box in which I am to volunteer my worth

Expands as I type.

 

But can it expand enough to include

That moment, at the tail-end of winter,

When I took my tantruming toddler for a walk in the woods?

 

When, on our way to the stream,

She jumped down a log step

And grinned, gleeful with triumph:

'BIG step!'

 

And I smiled back,

Thankful for the distraction,

And complicit in her joy.

 

It wasn't a big step, really.

 

But for a moment it seemed that I was she,

And God was I,

And all my achievements - 'Look, a book!' -

Like an infant proudly presenting her nursery paintings.

 

And as she smiled back at me,

Truly delighting with me

In both the big step, and in my pleasure in it

 

For that moment I understood

Esteem.

Saturday, 22 May 2021

Hymn for Returning to the Church Building

 I wrote this hymn in response to the Jubilate call for new hymn words in response to the pandemic. It uses a tune I've wanted to use for years - the chorus of 'Do you hear the people sing' from the musical Les Miserables! This is of course a copyrighted tune so I can't reproduce the music here, but it is widely available in 'songs from the shows' type music books - or can simply be sung from memory unaccompanied.

The interior of St Dunstan's church set up with social distancing


 It is particularly written for entering a church again that has been closed for the time of pandemic, but I have tried to also make it of general use for gathering for worship at any time when there has been a crisis, stress or trouble, whether in the specific church community or more generally. 


We will come into this space

Bringing our weariness and pain

Bringing our wariness and fears

That life may never be the same;

We will gather in this place

Willing our hearts to open wide

Willing our words and actions here to bring hope outside.

 

We will come into this space

Knowing that we will never see

All that our memories say it was

All that we dream that it should be;

We will gather in God’s grace

Willing to let go of our fears

Willing to be what’s needed now and what’s needed here.

 

We are weary of fake news

Weary of inequality

Weary of struggling to choose

To live against hostility;

We are wary of God’s call

Wary of what we’re asking for

Wary of all the times our trust’s been abused before.

 

We will go from here renewed

Strengthened by spirit, bread and song,

Strengthened by welcome, silence, word

And by the knowledge we belong;

We will go from here with you

Willing to walk your humble way

Willing to choose love’s liberation afresh each day.