Monday, 24 December 2012

Reflections on Mr Bean's Nativity


This is a scene from Mr Bean's Merry Christmas video when he interacts with a Nativity Set in a department store - it is full of deep theological meaning !  Do watch it and enjoy.....  It is full of exotic imagery and wild imagination........ just like the book of Revelation!

I particularly like the appearance of the 'Dragon' in the form of a Dinosaur. And a 'war in heaven' that is fought over the Nativity scene, represented by the appearance of Tanks and a Dalek,  before the child and holy family are whisked off by an angel / helicopter to a place of safety. Well more likely to have been a 'Wilderness' in Egypt than a comfortable palace/ doll's house.  

There is even an earlier hint when the Dalek attacks the vulnerable lamb and exits laughing, thinking it has won, which clearly is a reference to the cross and 'the Lamb who was slain from the foundation of the world'  and Satan's apparent victory at Calvary!

Whilst this is all very 'tongue-in-cheek' the Revelation account is a parallel story to the 'normal' nativity scene and show another dimension to the narrative.  Worth thinking about


The picture is from a blog for "nativity scene with dragon," which points out the extra Biblical Nativity Narrative which is not normally read out in Carol services! It seems more appropriate for a Dungeons & Dragons style fantasy game.
'The Birth of Christ was designed to overcome doom and gloom, and the dragon belongs in the Christmas story.'

  1 And a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars.  2 She was pregnant and was crying out in birth pains and the agony of giving birth.  3 And another sign appeared in heaven: behold, a great red dragon, with seven heads and ten horns, and on his heads seven diadems.  4 His tail swept down a third of the stars of heaven and cast them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman who was about to give birth, so that when she bore her child he might devour it.  5 She gave birth to a male child, one who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron, but her child was caught up to God and to his throne,  6 and the woman fled into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared by God, in which she is to be nourished for 1,260 days. 7 Now war arose in heaven, Michael and his angels fighting against the dragon. And the dragon and his angels fought back..... (Rev. 12:1-7) 


I received an email which quoted an extract from a Christmas news letter by a Christian worker in Afghanistan: 
"This Christmas, we pray for places of ongoing conflict in the Muslim world, like Palestine, Syria, Afghanistan and Pakistan... Even as we are grieved with the senseless deaths of young children in Connecticut, we also wept over 10 young girls in Eastern Afghanistan who were senselessly killed when a landmine exploded while they were gathering firewood. Across the border in Pakistan suicide attackers killed more people on the same day and vaccination workers were senselessly killed for doing a polio eradication campaign...
The one who wages war on earth, the Great Dragon of Rev. 12 is also part of the Christmas story—although not usually a part of the nativity scene (!)—he is clearly seen in the murderous fury of Herod and his soldiers. In Rev 12, this Dragon is thrown from heaven, that ancient serpent who seeks to destroy the Child and make war on those who keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus (Rev 12: 17)... But his time IS short, and we know how it ends:
"Salvation and power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down..." (Rev 12: 10)
In a strange way the "peace on earth" announced by angels at Jesus' birth is mingled with the wrath of the Great Dragon. But our salvation is near and our eternal home is secure. Emmanuel is with us."

Christmas is seen as a time of Peace, but all peace must be fought for, it carries a price.... a laying down of life, a sacrifice.  Hopefully not literally for most of us, but at least involving a struggle, an effort.  ' Indeed we are encouraged to 'strive together for peace' (Heb 12:14)   

So may you strive for and experience that same Peace the Angels proclaimed to the Shepherds (and there are is a lot of emphasis on sheep in Mr Bean's Nativity): 
And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” Luke 2:13-14  

Thanks, Mr Bean for making it all so clear.......

Friday, 21 December 2012

O Little Town of Bethlehem

I came across this video made by a church in New Zealand of the Christmas Story told by Palestinians in the 'Land of the Holy One'. It has a real sense of authenticity about it and we will be using it in the International Carol Service at Christchurch, Woking on Sat 22nd Dec 2012

Published on 16 Dec 2012
The story of the birth of Jesus told by the people of Bethlehem. Made by St Paul's Church, Auckland, New Zealand. Anyone is welcome to show this film publicly, but not change it in any way, nor publish it, nor make money out of it.

St Paul's Auckland  by St Paul's Arts & Media (SPAM)



Thursday, 20 December 2012

Nasruddin: Cutting off the branch he's sitting on

As you may know, I have been due to leave CMS for some months now following the successful launch of AsiaCMS based in Kuala Lumpur. So now it really  is 'time to say goodbye' (have a look at the YouTube video)

I finished my formal contract with CMS as a Director on 31/July 2012  And since then have been working as a self-employed Mission consultant.

For the past few months this has included helping CMS 3 days a week with transition. I have also been teaching the CYM Diversity Module and doing an engagement survey with SAC  I have also done some Appreciative Inquiry workshops with Tearfund and have engaged with a change process with a  church in Quinton, Birmingham. I am open to other work as part of a developing portfolio,  so if you know anything....

There are lots of opportunities and I am also starting to raise a ministry fund (via Stewardship Services)  so I can continue to engage with work in Asia through AsiaCMS and Faith2Share

Some people have asked if I'm retiring!  to which I usually reply that I am far too young.  And there is far to much to do. So I am developing a portfolio of global-local consultancy. 

My role in CMS  has been handed over to Kang-San Tan the new Executive Director of AsiaCMS based in KL and Paul Thaxter the CMS Transcultural Director based in Oxford.     Olivia Jackson, the new Transcultural Manager for Asia has taken on the work that Adrian Watkins and John Hayward did, but in a redefined role that works alongside AsiaCMS .  I wrote about this earlier - the three Musketeers finding their D'Artagnon



It has been a privilege to work with CMS these past 26 - Nearly 13 years in Pakistan as a Mission Partner and then as a Regional Director for nearly 14 years.  I wrote some notes for the speech I never did at CMS (I just told a Nasruddin story instead - see below) 
But just a few of the highlights since joining CMS in 1985: 
  • CMS Training at Crowther Hall (and SIL summer school) in 1985
  • IBTIDA drug Rehabilitation Project in Karachi – 10 years of ministry ‘heady days’ of rushing around the city trying to save heroin addicts from their addiction  
  • Ordination as a permanent deacon in 1998 in Church of Pakistan
  • Accused of blasphemy by the infamous Takhbeer magazine – a spiritual ‘high’  
  • Moving to Peshawar and working with ORA  and the Afghan led NEJAT drug project (the start of my relationship with Afghanistan)
  • 1998 taking on role of Middle East and Pakistan ‘secretary’ following Bob Wilkes (and John Clark before him) and doing  ‘Bob’s Job’ (I only got the job cos I was the closest look-alike!)
  • Lots of CMS Residentials for strategic planning  and pub conversations   
  • the RTA when I broke my sternum on the way to St Julian’s (now St Cuthman’s)  George got whiplash and Richard broke his ankle.
  • President/chair of our partner organisation in Afghanistan for 8+ years with trips twice a year to Kabul
  • The CMS move to Oxford from Partnership House (see  my blog on end of western mission)
  • The AsiaCMS process and the setting up a new mission entity in Asia
  • Flying well over one million miles of mission since I started (mainly with Emirates – Dubai lounge being my second home!)
  • My kids still think my job was about taking people out for meals and giving them toblerone ....   (or maybe a spook – ‘MI5 not 9to5’)
  • As I have travelled Nasruddin has been my constant travelling companion....
There are many other experiences over the years.  I have worked under 6 ‘General Secretaries’/ CEO/ Executive Leader

  1. Simon Barrington-Ward
  2. Harry Moore
  3. Michael Nazir-Ali
  4. Diana Witts
  5. Tim Dakin
  6. Philip Mounstephen
I feel CMS is in safe hands under Philip’s leadership and look forward to seeing what the new ‘radical continuity’ looks like.......


 Now back to that story about Mullah Nasruddin:


 Nasruddin is sitting on a  branch, chopping it off for fire-wood. A passerby warns him: 'What are you doing, if you cut that branch you will fall and die!'
The Mullah thinks: "This is some foolish person who has no work to do but go around telling other people what to do and what not to do." 
While his mind was on this train of thought, down comes Nasruddin together with the branch he had just managed to chop.

Lying dazed on his back, the Mullah realises the man must indeed be a prophet and that therefore he must be dead as he predicted. So he continues to lie down dead, wondering what would happen next. 

Passerbys see him 'dead' underneath the tree and lift him up and put him in a coffin to carry him to the graveyard. As they are taking him they come to a fork in the road and start arguing about which is with quickest way to the graveyard. 
After a while the irritated Mulla sits up, pointing and exclaims: 'When I was alive that was the right way.....'

The past few years helping to realise the vision of a new AsiaCMS has been like sitting on the branch that you are cutting off.  It involves an inevitable and predictable ‘fall’ and a sort of ‘dying’.  And I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way (except maybe finding another branch to sit on!)

And being a consultant is very similar to sitting up from the coffin when people are confused about the way forward and suggesting ‘well, when I was around we used to do it this way...’
Well that's one form of consultancy (diagnostic) anyway - I actually prefer helping people to think through and decide for themselves (dialogical).   But if any of you need a consultant to suggest ways forward just get in touch with ‘the Mullah’.....

Monday, 12 November 2012

Addicted in Afghanistan

I was sent the link to a new film. It is based in a part of the world I used to work in and all about the type of work I was involved in......  

It is with great excitement that we can finally announce our multi-award winning feature length documentary "Addicted in Afghanistan" is now available to stream or buy to download here!
Thanks to Distrify you can watch this film and if you embed it on your own blogs or websites, you get to earn  revenue from film sales!  Please see the Addicted website for further details about the film.

"Addicted in Afghanistan" now available to stream or download! 
It looks like a  great movie  Let me now what you think about it ......

Sunday, 4 November 2012

Still Point

I visited the Lightbox in Woking earlier and saw an excellent installation: Still Point by Suki Chan, a Hong Kong artist.

You can read more about it on and here

Suki Chan’s new work, Still Point, is a film installation that engages with sacred spaces and places of pilgrimage.
"Whilst filming in sacred sites in Jerusalem, I was struck by how some parts of the city have two names, one in Hebrew and the other in Arabic. How one population can ‘unsee’ another group. How one part of the city is closed off to another group – by borders which are sometimes physical and sometimes psychological."
Still Point transports the audience from the site of the humble wooden structures offering refuge along Pilgrims’ Way in Northumberland, to contested sacred sites in Jerusalem, and the interior spaces of abandoned Syrian villages in the Golan Heights.

Have a look at the preview on Vimeo  Well worth it.......

It's based on the poem by T S Elliot   The Still Point in a turning world.   
I loved the 2 sacred:spaces visited:  Lindisfarne and Jerusalem... Holy Island and Holy City

Saturday, 20 October 2012

Bob the Builder: 'Entertaining Angels'

There were 6 street angels (WSA) on duty on Friday night in 3 equal male-female pairs. Perfect....

 Angel based on Van Gogh drawing

Our pair spent the initial time (first 2 hours) chatting, clearing bottles, greeting people. We talked to Pakistani Taxi drivers and an Afghan pizza man,  as well as Nigerian and Eastern European Bouncers. Woking is becoming much more multi-cultural.  We were offered a glass of green tea by one taxi driver who had once driven me to Gatwick and remembered me by name. I didn't recognise him at first. 'cos he's grown a bushy beard.  The sweet 'kava' was served by a restauranteer from Gilgit in N Pakistan. I had visited there in 1987, even visiting his village of Kaplu in Baltistan, so we had lots to talk about.... 

Since it had been raining, and because of the general recession, there were not that many people out  but we still had a significant evening of encounters and conversations.

A recent BBC article  claimed that anti-social behviour was down by 21% in Woking since the StreetAngels had been out on the streets.  This was due to a combination of good Community Policing and more visibility by WSA and groups like Outside Lights.   They were under the station canopy, giving away tea and literature. Interestingly some of the police thought we were the same group. 

By the way,  you can now follow the local Woking Police on Twitter @WokingBeat.  And Woking Street Angels also have a Facebook page

We had a number of encounters, in particular a fascinating conversation with 'Charles'* (*all names have been changed or made up*),  a well-spoken young Trader, someone learning the fast paced lifestyle, currently in £500 a month as a student, but soon expecting to earn £500 a day, if he could keep up with the highly pressured lifestyle.  

We came across one man, 'Pete'* sitting on a bench with his head in his hands. He had been kicked out of  pub for disturbing bahaviour and was feeling very low indeed.  He had lost his job and had lived rough a few time in the past and had also been in a drug rehab years ago.  He could see himself sliding back down and was talking of harming himself. So we walked him back to his house. It was difficult to leave someone who was talking of getting a knife to cut himself. Walking away can also be an act of faith.

The police seemed particularly helpful on this occasion going round to check on him.  We later got a message that he was OK and sleeping it off.

We also me someone  'Neville'* who was obviously very high and had great difficulty drinking from the bottle of water we gave him.  He did seem to really enjoy his lollipop.  'Bob the Builder'*  and his mate were looking for a place they could get a pint at 2 in the morning.  We all ended up staying with 'Neville' and helping him walk towards the centre of town, (he certainly couldn't walk very straight at all). They even rolled him a fag.  Bob the Builder said he had been an addict himself years ago, and had been off for 11 years and now had his own family and a good job.  He was really helpful with Neville, who said he had nowhere to stay cos he'd been kicked out.   We gave him a blanket and he bed down for the night in a  doorway near BHS,   The police, who knew him well as a PPO  (Persistent Petty Offender), said they wouldn't disturb him and let him sleep it off for a bit. I thought that was great.....   

I mentioned to 'Bob' that he had missed out on that extra pint on his Friday night out. He responded that helping Neville was much better than a pint. It had reminded him of where he had been and how far he had progressed. He may have been a rough diamond in the past, but he certainly shone that night. The Bible talks about practicing hospitality and entertaining angels unawares. Actually I think we saw an angel at work that night in the guise of Bob the Builder.......

Friday, 19 October 2012

The Fourth Musketeer


Alexandre Dumas' famous Musketeers as in this 1894 image by Maurice Leloir

The Three Musketeers (French: Les Trois Mousquetaires) is a novel by Alexandre Dumas, first serialized in March–July 1844. Set in the 17th century, it recounts the adventures of a young man named d'Artagnan after he leaves home to travel to Paris, to join the Musketeers of the Guard. D'Artagnan is not one of the musketeers of the title; those are his friends Athos, Porthos, and Aramis, inseparable friends who live by the motto "all for one, one for all" ("un pour tous, tous pour un"), a motto which is first put forth by d'Artagnan.[1]

There have been numerous films that retell the tale of D'Artagnon  and the 3 Musketeers
one of the most inappropriate being Barbie and the 3 Musketeers! And there is a lego set to boot.... 

Even made famous in Asia through Slumdog Millionaire as the final million dollar question....

And I suppose any group of 3 men can easily be nicknamed 'three Musketeers'  which is exactly what happened to us in CMS.  It was at our Nepal Conference in April that the 3 Musketeers were first farewelled - Adrian, John and myself who had all worked for the formation of AsiaCMS  : 'One for all and all for one'

Since then we had been looking for a D'Artagnon to pass on all our skill and experience. Until finally the new musketeer has been chosen  .... and all is revealed  ..... 

 Athos (Adrian)  Porthos (Phil)   D'Artagnon (Olivia)  and  Aramis (John)  

Olivia now joins us  as the forth musketeer.....  and will be looking after CMS work in Asia as the new mission manager.   And I understand she has had a certain nickname.  So maybe that 'Barbie and the 3 Musketeers' was not as outrageous after all!  

This now means the other three can start enjoying their 'retirement plan'. Mind you any sighting of Cardinal Richelieu will bring them all running to defend the Kingdom ......

All for One and One for All !    ('un pour tous, tous pour un')

Thursday, 18 October 2012

what do you think about?

A Palestinian friends showed me a cartoon. 4 men are in a class L to R from Arabia, America, Europe and Africa   Interestingly there is no-one from Asia, or maybe the teacher is Asian!   
In Arabic you read from right to left so the cartoon reads: 'What is your opinion about shortage of food around the world?'
the African asks: 'What is food?
The European:  'what is shortage?
the American enquires: 'what is the rest of the world?'
the Arab says: 'what is an opinion?' 

Yes, they are stereotypes. But they make a point and suggest global perspectives in the same problem  It all depends on where you are coming from.....

There are lots of TED talk about food shortage. Here's one:

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Assignment - Cold Turkey in Karachi

I used to work with Heroin Addicts in Karachi, back in the mid 80s to mid 90s, so it was with great interest that I listened to the BBC Assignment programme about Cold Turkey in Karachi

(Image: A Pakistani drug addict holding a syringe with his teeth after injecting heroin on a street in Karachi. Credit: BEHROUZ MEHRI/AFP/Getty Images)

You can listen to the programme here or follow the link below

The programme blurb gives you an idea of what its about.  Its a massive issue - of epidemic proportions.  Maybe you can also pray for my old project IBTIDA whilst you listen ....... 

Karachi is facing a drugs epidemic.
Pakistan's sprawling port city has an estimated half a million chronic heroin addicts.
The drug is cheap and easily available as it comes across the Pakistan/Afghanistan border, before being shipped to Europe and the US.
For Assignment, Mobeen Azhar finds out how a charity is trying to help addicts and their families.
An NGO called the Edhi Foundation operates what is thought to be the world's largest drug rehabilitation centre.
It's here that Mobeen meets brothers Yusaf and Husein who have checked themselves in.
Patients who volunteer for treatment like this can leave whenever they feel ready.
But the majority of patients, like 24-year-old Saqandar, are brought in by their desperate relatives, and according to Edhi rules, only the family can decide when they will be released.
The centre offers heroin users food and painkillers to ease the physical symptoms of withdrawal - but conventional treatment like methadone is not available. So does enforced cold turkey really work?
Mobeen follows the stories of three heroin addicts and finds out how the stress of their addiction takes its toll on them and their families.

  • Broadcast on BBC World Service, 10:05PM Sat, 11 Aug 2012
  • Available until 12:00AM Thu, 1 Jan 2099
  • First broadcast BBC World Service, 9:05AM Thu, 9 Aug 2012
  • Categories  News
  • Duration 25 minutes

Saturday, 4 August 2012

Partnership House and the 'end of Western Mission'

I used to work in Partnership House in Waterloo,  London, the 'headquarters' of the Church Mission Society CMS. The local post office used to call it 'Go Forth House' because of the stone inscription across the doorway.  It was the Great Commission according to Mark 16:15  (NEV)
Now the site on 157 Waterloo Road is empty air as it has been knocked down and is being built on .  CMS moved to Oxford back in in 2008.

After being sold,  Partnership House was all boarded up (with squatters living in) until it was finally knocked down.  I travelled past on quite a  few occasions and it looked like Western Mission Agencies (WMA) had indeed shut up shop.  

Some have suggested that mission ended in the 20th century.  People like Vishal Mangalwadi  have suggested we have reached the end of Christendom model and Western Mission. 

But there has been a Global shift. In Church terms the Global North may indeed have been squeezed and shrinking,  but the Global Balloon is expanding in the South.   South America, Africa and Asia are where the church is growing and are becoming the new centres of mission. Mission is no longer from the 'West to the Rest' but (as in the title of a book by Michael Nazir-Ali) it is  'Everywhere to Everywhere'

Someone sent some pictures to us in CMS which showed PH in the process of being deconstructed  (14 June 2012) 

I thought you might be interested in the attached Pictures of the former Church Mission Society HQ in Waterloo Road which has been bricked up for sometime and was covered in Scaffolding whilst they demolished it.
However I remembered the Phrase above the entrance from Mark 16:15. Well, today I had my Camera for another reason and happened to go that way and they are obviously down to the last part of the entrance/chapel and have uncovered it ready for final demolition.
I always thought it was a pity that this should go and not be listed /moved to another location somehow, but then it was a 1960's office block..... Still I took a couple of poignant pictures of the verse.

Yes it is in some ways poignant, but as I have blogged beforehand.  it may be that the Institution is being replaced by a new sense of movement and community. The Good News is still around to be proclaimed to the whole of creation......  

'Fishing in Utopia' or 'Where's Walleye'!

'Fishing in Utopia' is a Grantis Book by Andrew Brown (2008) subtitled 'Sweden and the Future that Disappeared'.   So its all about Sweden and I'm in Stockholm reading it at the moment, but reflecting on the fishing in Finland, which is as near as I have been to Utopia in terms of fishing.   The A6 pastel painting above is inspired by the view on arrival at a Lake house in Ahtari (picture below) The dark deep waters awash with Pike, Perch, Pike-Perch and the more elusive Walleye

I'm not a fisherman but I enjoyed fishing on this occasion with Harri and his son, Joel.  We went our at least twice a day for a few hours at a stretch. Lake trolling I think its called, dragging a line from a small motor boat with a bright yellow and black lure.  Very relaxing.....   I enjoyed watching the shifting scenery and the beauty of creation. As well as the game of chance, which people call fishing.  I thought the game should be renamed: 'Where's Walleye'!      

Harri and Joel  are very much at home on the Lake and fishing almost runs in their blood. They have been going to Harri's parents' summer house for years and fishing the Lake, particularly in search of Walleye, which they think is the best fish in the Lake.   And at the end of the day you bring the fish back like ancient maniners/ hunters. And eat and sauna and fall asleep happily after the late sunset (10pm) comfortably exhausted.   That's the life.......

A quotation from the 'Fishing in Utopia' book, seems appropriate: 
Fishing anywhere is a form of enquiry. The patient watchful wonder of the fisherman seems to me to be the root of all science. In sea fishing this mapping and bringing of order from the formless, shifting waves is especially ambitious. Attention broods over the water like the spirit in Genesis, moving, casting, until suddenly all the possibilities are narrowed into one taut line. Perhaps this explains why I have always sought the sea at times of upset and disturbance in my life. The fish comes like an answer, the rod in my hand a divining instrument.'  (p83) 
I'm a little bit more like a fish out of water.  Someone even called this picture 'the old Man and the sea'. But inspite of looking out of place and uncomfortable (some people say I look cold), I am actually having an almost 'spiritual experience' as brown described. watching, brooding ..... and I did manage to catch a 2 kilo pike, which I also later filleted and we had it for breakfast, smoked along with 4 perch that Joel had pulled effortlessly out of the water and into a bucket on board. I have to admit I enjoyed the experience immensely. Going out in the boat and watching the changing scenery, coupled with the fishing lottery......  'will I, won't I' catch one today?      It really is pretty addictive......

Joel, being a pre-teenager, would also go out on his own whenever he had the chance for even mor efishing opportunities. And so I did a quick pastel stetch of him fishing alone,  which I left him as a momento of our 'fishing in Utopia' trip.

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

The Bright Field......

Another reflection as a result of my bricoge picture At the Crossroads , this time a poem about a field.  I had added a picture of a field in the bricolage from a calendar of Van Gogh images, without really considering its significance.

The field represents hidden treasure, like in the gospel parable (Matt 13:44) and the wonderful story of 'the Alchemist: a fable about following your dream' by Paulo Coelho.  With Eternal significance...

And a VanGogh(ish) pastel drawing to go with the poem: 'A Bright field'.  One I did earlier and which seems to fit .....     

The Bright Field
I have seen the sun break through
to illuminate a small field
for a while, and gone my way
and forgotten it. But that was the pearl
of great price, the one field that had
treasure in it. I realize now
that I must give all that I have
to possess it. Life is not hurrying
on to a receding future, nor hankering after
an imagined past. It is the turning
aside like Moses to the miracle
of the lit bush, to a brightness
that seemed as transitory as your youth
once, but is the eternity that awaits you.
~ R. S. Thomas ~
(Another from the wonderful anthology,
Soul Food: Nourishing Poems for Starved Minds,
ed. by Neil Astley and Pamela Robertson-Pearce)

There is a lovely reading of the poem by Nichola Davies (set to Tallis's music Spem in alium)

Saturday, 21 July 2012

Wild Geese

I was introduced to a poem called Wild Geese by Mary Oliver (from Dream Works). It was in response to my bricolage picture:  Crossroads and some of the images. As a poem, it spoke to me..... As the poem says, it caught my imagination.... 
So I have done a pastel crayon drawing of a wild goose, a snow goose to accompany the poem

Wild Geese

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting–
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.
© Mary Oliver

The Celts used the Wild Goose as a symbol of the Holy Spirit -   You can read more reflections in a  blog about symbols of the holy Spirit (by Blue Eyed Ennis)

And whilst youare at it why not relax to some music and wild goose footage from Youtube: 'winged flight of geese'  (Music by Bruno Coulais)

And a bit more fun:  Geese sing 'Just a perfect day' in another YouTube clip

Saturday, 14 July 2012

Bricolage - At the crossroads


I used an old Ordinance survey map of the Lake District dated Dec 1977  - The North West sheet, because I wanted a large canvas and I had a newer version of the map.  This represents my ‘roots’ in NW England where we settled after the Army years and my introduction to Hill Walking (A. Wainwright and his Pictorial guide to the Lakeland Fells) - my stomping ground. I wanted to think/ dream/ imagine what the future might look like in 5 years time. The picture is the outworking of this process ... 

I had sketched out a basic idea of a path leading to a cross roads and a decision to go up the slow, steep track to the left up the mountain into the unknown or to the right into the woods (also an unknown path).  Which one represents for me ‘the road less travelled?’  

I wanted a lake in the foreground on the right and something representing family in theforeground on the left. I had the idea of my two hands being visible - in one a hiking stick and in the other a compass. So the scene in front is what I would be looking at….   I intended it to be purely symbolic with no words.

I collected a pile of magazines which inevitably represent today’s interests – Time, Ramblers, Emirates In-flight magazine, Family History, Gardening, National Trust, British Heart Foundation, iCreate (Mac Mag) A Rocha - and I tore out anything that struck me. I later used 3 images from a Van Gogh calendar which are scattered throughout the picture. 

I started with the empty hands, a rough path and then did the mountains – They are Alpine (Swiss) and Himalayan – a mixture of West and East.  Somehow it is the mountains that draw me – and they dominate the skyline.  There is a group of Ramblers making their way to the foothills to start the ascent.
The Lake came next and boats surrounded by trees and flowers.  The Lake is a place for ‘messing about in boats’ and there is a mixture of a Swiss Lake steamer, and a working fishing boat and canoes.  The oriental trees  - cherry blossoms represent the East and my fascination with things Oriental.  
I liked the words: ‘Your space’ (from a National Trust mag) so added them at the side.  Birds, bees, butterflies were overlaid.   A grebe on the water,  a Great Tit feeding and the last thing I added - a Falcon (Peregrine) soaring high in the mountains (my blog/motto is: wandering4the love of God – ‘Peregrinate pro Dei amore’) 

The Natural world represents a breathing space…  a place to reflect.  And water offers the perfect reflecting space.  The 3 people sitting on a bench looking somehow reflect that. They look like Artists in their straw boaters. The water is also a place to explore and enjoy. Other words appear in the mountains:  ‘The heavens are high and the mountains are far away’. At the edge, on the fringe, there is more freedom….

The Van Gogh image added to the night sky so I ended up with day on the left and night on the right. I found a moon for the top right (twilight/ stars /eternity) and made a strong sun from Van Gogh’s sunflowers on the top left (hope/ light/ life). He also provided the field on the left and I added others, representing ‘discover your local countryside’.  I liked the ‘work, rest and play’ but ( reminded me of ‘A Mars a day helps you…’ - I always took a MARS when hill walking) and the idea of famous art, so added it as an easel, thinking about Van Gogh painting in the fields around Arles.  

I also liked the man looking wistfully off the edge to the left, a mackintosh draped over his arm.  He was part of the image with the words: 'Here I am … in my own private space’   I just kept the words ‘here I am ‘ as a sort of prayer, writ large in the sky (a prayer of submission ‘be it unto me according to your word’  - the missionary response from Isaiah 6: ‘Here I am, send me’) 

Family in the foreground 

I filled the foreground with images that connect to family - a couple with children (representing future marriage and possible grandchildren) I added sunflower heads to make them more symbolic and represent a gift from the source of life. Simple produce, a healthy heart (Jo and medicine) the farming (Andy and Ag Dev?)  And also the word ‘Development’ (I would have preferred the word: transformation). The camera (Jonny and professional photography). I don’t feel I have represented Tim and business – but there is a small beehive!   Maybe capturing micro-enterprise – certainly ‘busy bees’ and a ‘hive of activity’….

In the end the pathway leading to the crossroads and the signpost looks very cruciform, with a hanging Christ-like figure dominating the centre. And I accentuated this with a bowed head shape (and crown of thorns- maybe a little too overt!) Leaving it more subtle would have been better.    I used oil pastels to bring some continuity to the picture, sky, mountain, path, water, hands…

The crossroads does not just offer two paths: the left one up the mountain with the Ramblers and the right one to the beach and the Lake and the trees and gardens.  (Maybe the left is my masculine rugged Mountains (my side of the family) and the Right more feminine - water, gardens, flowers and sailing boats (my wifes side).  And I want both to be integrated… But there is also a third way, behind (even through) the cross, along the Great Wall of China to the Orient… where ‘the heavens are high and the emperor is far away’

Back to the hands. In the end I had a folded map in the left hand– a guide to the journey (a very local map) rather than a ‘walking stick’. I wanted a compass on my iPhone in the right hand, but left it with a drawing app: ‘Draw, play, share’ (3 very good words) the electronic devise is important since it represents connectivity to the wider world wherever I am.   I also added the iCreate logo as a title, representing my own creativity as well AppleMac’s!  I added more words to cuffs on the hands, one with Ramblers and the other Heart Matters, representing that healthy outdoor life style.  

Under Cover 

I used the inside of the folding cover for more words:  ‘Go share the gospel with the world’  - and the ‘missio dei’ (mission of God) which I orient my life around.
… ‘Open your eyes to a distinctly different ….’  On one level simply a matter of open eyed wonder at the world around, and at another deeper level representing Enlightenment. Yet the Buddhist eyes are closed (in meditation?)  And the natural world (‘eye of the Tiger’) eyes open. Maybe even more than meditation, it is natural revelation (The scripture of Nature) that is my main spiritual gateway…   

I liked the Octavia Hill (1883) quote:  
‘We all need space; unless we have it we cannot reach that sense of quiet in which whispers of better things come to us gently….(and we need) places to sit in, places to play in. places to stroll in and places to spend a day in’   


And finally it is all held together by one of my favourite songs/hymns:  ‘I heard the voice of Jesus say … come unto me and rest’.  I particularly like the Eden’s Bridge Celtic version. And I have recently, been asking myself the question: ‘Are my travelling days done?’ 

I heard the voice of Jesus say, “Come unto Me and rest; 

Lay down, thou weary one, lay down Thy head upon My breast.”

I came to Jesus as I was, weary and worn and sad;

I found in Him a resting place, and He has made me glad.

I heard the voice of Jesus say, “Behold, I freely give

The living water; thirsty one, stoop down, and drink, and live.”

I came to Jesus, and I drank of that life giving stream; 

My thirst was quenched, my soul revived, and now I live in Him. 

I heard the voice of Jesus say, “I am this dark world’s Light; 

Look unto Me, thy morn shall rise, and all thy day be bright.”

I looked to Jesus, and I found in Him my Star, my Sun; 

And in that light of life I’ll walk, 'til traveling days are done.

The song finishes with a couplet.  I was only hearing the last phrase… I listened to it again, set to an old Scottish tune ‘Rowan Tree’ by Wild Goose recording (Iona) - words by Horatius Bonar (1846). Interestingly the Rowan tree is the tree we planted to remember my parents and their ashes are in their church garden @ Cleveley’s Baptist Church  –

I looked to Jesus and I found in Him my Star, my Sun;
And in that light of life I’ll walk 'til travelling days are done’  

Monday, 9 July 2012

Dancing 2012

wherethehellismatt inspired me back in 2008. Now he has come up with another movie at last of dancing around the world. This time with less sponsorship and more cultural diversity shining through in what is still wonderfully inspirational.......

Published on Jun 20, 2012 by 
The cities that didn't make it into the final cut will be in the outtakes video that we're putting up on Tuesday, July 10th!

Download the video, buy the shirt and stuff like that:

"Trip the Light" on iTunes:

Vocals by Alicia Lemke:

Lyrics to Trip the Light:

The dancers in Syria are blurred for their safety.


I showed my version of Dancing, clips I had taken whilst travelling, inspired by Matt dancing2008 will ye go? at Christchurch on Sunday night at the end of my talk. It went down well and hence I was reminded of MAtt Dancing again and found the 2012 version..... 

The video includes what became known as ORA's last dance. our final board meeting in Kabul. In it you can see (3:12-3:30) Cheryl dancing at the back. She was one of the 10 murdered aid workers in Nuristan back in August 2010. So sad to think whe is no lionger with us. But the dancing is a testimony to the fact that she enjoyed life so much.