Goodness, Kindness and Love Amidst Tragedy: Let Your Light Shine in the World

From out of the mouths of children…

Last week I took part in “Experience Church”, a special event for children in St Mark’s Church, Leamington Spa. Hand painted jamjars in front of lighted candles on altar steps of St Mark's Church Leamington Spa

 

The event was organised by Ros Davies our lovely and energetic Children and Family Worker. 130 Brownies and Guides toured four “stations” in our church, in groups of five or six.

 

The four stations were:

1) The Church Welcomes.

 

Table display saying "The Church Welcomes" in St Mark's Church Leamington Spa

2) The Church Prays.

 

Wooden cross with prayer flags St Mark's Church Leamington Spa

3) The Church Teaches.

"The Church Teaches" display below pulpit St Mark's Church Leamington Spa

4) The Church Serves.

Hand-painted jamjars and lighted candles on black cloth in church

My daughter Abigail and I were in charge of the Stained Glass station – The Church Serves.

We asked the girls why churches have stained glass windows and what the purpose of them is, then we talked about some of the stories that are told in the windows, and the people in those stories, and the lives they led;  people who serve God in this life by “shining a light” in the way they behave to others. Then the girls painted jam-jars with glass paints and we set them on the altar steps in front of lighted candles so we could see the light shining through them.Hand-painted jamjars in front of lighted candles on altar steps of church

So first we asked the girls, “has anyone been kind and generous to you in the last few days – or today?”

One of the girls  said her friend had stood up for her; another said her mum gave her some sweets, and another mentioned that her older sister is kind to her. We also heard, “all the people in my school. I’ve just moved to a new school and they have all made me feel really welcome.” And the other two said, “Yes!” because they were in her group at school and were among those who had welcomed her. And with every act of kindness, a light shines out into the world.

Light is a strong symbol in the Christian faith as in others.Hand-painted jamjars in front of lighted candles on black cloth in church

People who are kind and generous to others may be described as shining a light in the world. Images of light are abundant in the Old and in the New Testament. One of the many names by which Jesus is known is The Light of the World. When a tragedy happens with mass fatalities, the instinct of all of us, religious or non-religious, is to light a candle for those souls who have perished.

I don’t believe we should equate darkness with evil, but unfortunately there is a strong symbolic correlation in the popular mind. Nevertheless, light is something we can all relate to. We see a light shining through people who act with goodness in this world.

In the recent appalling tragedy of Grenfell Tower, we saw people in the local community acting with goodness, kindness and generosity; a natural outpouring of empathy and a desire to serve.

Through these people, a light shone out into a situation of immense and ongoing pain and anguish.

What about you? Who has been kind and generous to you today, or in the past few days?

 

 

If you have enjoyed this post, here are a couple of my past posts on the subject of light:

The Power of Light to Uplift the Spirit

Darkness into Light: Celtic Spirituality

 

 

 

 

 

The Power of Light to Uplift the Spirit and Transform a Dark World

Add light to any situation, and it changes dramatically.

View of the London skyline from Parliament Hill, Hampstead.jpg

 

I have often thought the Shard in London looks like a mystical tower. Here in this view it certainly lives up to this image! Highlight one element of a picture and immediately it starts communicating its message  – as you will see from these pictures of places I find inspiring: whether that be the view over the London skyline from Parliament Hill, Hampstead; Coventry Cathedral; or the reflective glass building at 250 Euston Street, London.

According to the gospel of John, Jesus Christ described himself as the “light of the world”. John picks up on this image of light many times – “the true light that was the light to every person coming into the world.” Here in Coventry Cathedral I didn’t realise how the the Graham Sutherland tapestry of Christ was illuminated, until I looked at my photo later:

Light on the Graham Sutherland tapestry of Jesus Christ in Coventry Cathedral

I don’t like to see “darkness” necessarily equated with evil, or given any moral character at all, but when we see the pitiless acts of cruelty and hatred which have filled our news over the last weeks, months and years since so many bright (and perhaps false) hopes were raised at the millennium, we seem to crave words to convey our response, and we fall back on words like “black” and “darkness”. These words have acquired a spiritual resonance.

In the last few days I have been seeing just a few examples of the power of light to transform, and to convey a message.

Light or reflective glass building at 250 Euston Road, London

Let’s hope that we can ourselves be creative…

light a candle

…in how we shine light into the world, in however small a way, in our own situations.

silver sea image 5

Christmas: Time for Joy, Time for Mourning

Christmas arouses so many emotions.

Magical in childhood, often much more of a challenge in adulthood – which of us are “Ding Dong Merrily On High”, and which of us are “Bah Humbug”?

I love many things about Christmas:Molly under the Christmas tree.jpg

  •  The anticipation through Advent – Advent candles
  • Christmas carols – many of them have the most beautiful words which I find deeply moving;
  • Lights – I love fairy lights, candles, Christmas grottoes outside  houses
  • The Christmas tree with its lights and stars and shining baubles and tinsel is like a warm, friendly presence in the room. For many Christmas starts when the lights on the tree are switched on.
  • The story of Christ’s birth surely the most powerful among the world’s stories; full of spiritual resonance, reaching to the heart of the human condition, always relevant to our lives, especially right now, chillingly parallelled by world events today as refugee families flee tyranny and terror
  • The words of the prophet Isaiah, who I hold as one of the world’s greatest writers, as did Handel when he chose to set those words to music in “The Messiah“: The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death  and For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor,
    The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace and He shall feed his flock like a shepherd: he shall gather the lambs with his arm,
    and carry them in his bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young.
  • Meaningful rituals and happy remembrance: mince pies, mulled wine, Christmas concerts in country churches; Christmas wreaths on doors; Ghost stories by candlelight; Decorating the Christmas tree; Inviting neighbours in for drinks
  • Christmas music of all types – the popular Christmas songs and the Christmas songs written for choirs by John Rutter;  O Holy Night, Hope Finds a Way by Jonathan Roberts, Britten’s Ceremony of Carols, O Magnum Mysterium by Marten Lauridsen, Charpentiere’s Messe de Minuit… Many composers have been inspired by the mystery of the Incarnation, to write their most sublime music.
  • Trips to Santa grottoes with your children, and the Special Christmas Treat – whether that be to a Winter Wonderland, or to see a special show, or a wonderful pantomime
  • Magical memories of when as a child I awoke on Christmas morning and was filled with wonder and awe because, magically, a favourite doll had been dressed as a fairy in a sparkling dress
  • Every year, building special memories for your children – the particular times when you always  exchange gifts, what you always do on Christmas Eve, the moment when, for you, Christmas really begins; the photo you always take of the children with their lighted Christingles in front of the Christmas tree; the sherry, and mince pie left out for Santa on Christmas Eve together with the carrot for Rudolph
  • Charles Dickens’ story A Christmas Carol. Of all his stories I believe this is the most powerful. This story of reflection, repentance and redemption never loses its impact.  We have several DVDs of different dramatic version of A Christmas Carol, both live action and animated, and we watch them again and again each year.

Things I mourn for about Christmas:

the focus on excessive eating and the obsession of weight loss classes with how you will “manage” Christmas and the “damage limitation” you are going to do either before or afterwards

the burden of work and giving which falls on certain individuals – or which they choose to take upon themselves – while others seem blessed by the role of always being able to relax and receive

broken and dysfunctional relationships which are thrown into sharp relief by the false expectations thrown up by the advertising industry’s manipulation of society’s attitude to Christmas

the grief caused to people when they perceive themselves as having failed to meet others’ “expectations”

the consumer society seizing the opportunity to make as much money as possible

the pressure that is put on people in a mania to achieve “the perfect Christmas”

the way charities “use” Christmas as a time to ask for more money

The bittersweet remembrance of Christmasses past, spent with the people who have scattered – through death, divorce, marriage, moving on to create new lives of their own, moving far away.

 

 

 

Words From A Cave – Part 2

Mulu Caves Malaysia
Mulu Caves, Malaysia

Since last week’s post I’m starting to see the light flooding through into my cave. I’m moving around on my crutches (and sometimes without them.) I went to the Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter morning services at my church (St Mark’s Leamington Spa) and then later on Easter Sunday I was out at a local beauty spot, Burton Dasset Hills, near Banbury, enjoying the lovely views  and watching a white Scottie dog barking excitedly at two very indifferent and unimpressed sheep!

My novel, A Passionate Spirit, has been sent to a publisher and so this is a very opportune time for me to be taking a break.

I promised you the fruits of any creative thinking I manage to do. One thing I’ve learned is this: when you spend a significant amount of time in a cave, you stand to discover who your angels and demons are: because they’re all in there with you. I’ve identified 4 demons, the details of which I won’t reveal here, save for one: that is ‘the demon of compulsion to compare myself, unfavourably, with others’ – and in particular, other authors and their perceived success.  It’s good that I’ve identified and named these demons for that is the first stage to banishing them.

Of the angels, I can say that I’ve received one fruit of creative thinking; I’ve recognised  where my point of interest now lies, as an author: it’s actually the point of breakthrough. I’m interested in spiritual / paranormal / supernatural / otherworldly things breaking through into the real, solid, contemporary world. I’m interested in the crack – the clash of worlds and worldviews and different understandings of life / the universe and the way it operates – and most critically of all, how the people in this ordinary world react to and handle it.

A creative person , I realised, gets an idea and runs with it – and then, somewhere along the way, discovers something striking, surprising, unusual, a new angle – which gives the project an outstanding quality.

More insights from the cave next week – although I may then be walking out of it!