Dark Matter (Moses Boyd)

Dark Matter by Moses Boyd is one of a number of albums I’ve discovered this year because they were nominated for the Mercury Prize 2020.

Moses Boyd is a British jazz drummer, composer, record producer, bandleader and radio host. This debut solo album is a wonderful jazz album, one that’s fused with so many other genres, and described as a ‘melting-pot of genres and styles’. It’s one of my favourites of 2020.

You can see all my favourite 2020 albums by clicking here.

A Steady Drip, Drip, Drip (Sparks)

Sparks have been around since 1967, but I first came across them in 1974 when I heard their most well-known song, This Town Ain’t Big Enough for Both of Us. It was the opening track on their third album, Kimono My House.

A Steady Drip, Drip, Drip is their twenty-fourth studio album, and it’s one of my favourite albums of 2020. Unusually for Sparks it does contain the F*** word, especially in the title of one of the songs, a powerful environmental plea.

You can see all my favourite 2020 albums by clicking here.

All Saints’ Day to Advent Sunday

I share some thoughts and prayers from the Church of England website for my final Sunday devotional of the Christian year, one which ends with the Feast of Christ the King. I hope and pray this will be helpful in your preparation for the season of Advent and Christmas.

All Saints’ Day and the Commemoration of the Faithful Departed on All Souls’ Day both celebrate this mutual belonging. All Saints’ Day celebrates men and women in whose lives the Church as a whole has seen the grace of God powerfully at work. It is an opportunity to give thanks for that grace, and for the wonderful ends to which it shapes a human life; it is a time to be encouraged by the example of the saints and to recall that sanctity may grow in the ordinary circumstances, as well as the extraordinary crises, of human living. The Commemoration of the Faithful Departed celebrates the saints in a more local and intimate key. It allows us to remember with thanksgiving before God those whom we have known more directly: those who gave us life, or who nurtured us in faith.

Redemption is a work of God’s grace; it is God who redeems us in Christ and there is nothing to be done beyond what Christ has done. But we still wait for the final consummation of God’s new creation in Christ; those who are Christ’s, whether or not they have passed through death, are joined in prayer that God’s kingdom will be revealed finally and in all its fullness. We also sense that it is a fearful thing to come before the unutterable goodness and holiness of God, even for those who are redeemed in Christ; that it is searing as well as life-giving to experience God’s mercy; and this instinct also is expressed in the liturgy of All Souls’ Day.

Remembrance Sunday goes on to explore the theme of memory, both corporate and individual, as we confront issues of war and peace, loss and self-gift, memory and forgetting.

The annual cycle of the Church’s year now ends with the Feast of Christ the King. The year that begins with the hope of the coming Messiah ends with the proclamation of his universal sovereignty. The ascension of Christ has revealed him to be Lord of earth and heaven, and final judgement is one of his proper kingly purposes. The Feast of Christ the King returns us to the Advent theme of judgement, with which the cycle once more begins.

We pray for the coming of God’s kingdom.

You sent your Son to bring good news to the poor,
sight to the blind,
freedom to captives
and salvation to your people:
anoint us with your Spirit;
rouse us to work in his name.
Father, by your Spirit
bring in your kingdom.

Send us to bring help to the poor
and freedom to the oppressed.
Father, by your Spirit
bring in your kingdom.

Send us to tell the world
the good news of your healing love.
Father, by your Spirit
bring in your kingdom.

Send us to those who mourn,
to bring joy and gladness instead of grief.
Father, by your Spirit
bring in your kingdom.

Send us to proclaim that the time is here
for you to save your people.
Father, by your Spirit
bring in your kingdom.

Lord of the Church,
hear our prayer,
and make us one in mind and heart
to serve you in Christ our Lord. Amen.

Coronavirus Emotions and Feelings

Last month (October 2020) I posted this on Facebook: Coronavirus frustration, tension and weariness seems to be a thing (or rather three things that are linked) right now. Please feel free to share your experiences, which I’ll possibly compile into an anonymised blog post. It might be cathartic. There’s a lot going on in everyone’s lives at the moment.

I received a number of replies, but the first one (not in response to my invitation) is particularly helpful and is shared with permission. I have simply removed one sentence (and part of another) to make it totally anonymous.

I don’t usually share how I’m feeling, especially here on Facebook, I normally just share the good stuff and keep the rest to myself, part and parcel of being an introvert I guess. […..] For sometime now, I’ve recognised that I’m not struggling, that’s not the right word to use, I’m simply overwhelmed with everything that is happening at present, you know when you reach saturation point? Well that’s me. I’m finding it increasingly difficult to watch the news (not constantly) without just wanting to close my eyes and hope and pray that this pandemic will simply disappear, puff, and it’s gone, but it won’t, will it. I desperately try and stay optimistic, and yes I know that one day, all this will be over, we will pull through. I think what I’m trying to say, is that I recognise that at the moment, I know it’s okay, to not be okay, and I’m not! I’m finding that at times I am anxious, fearful, trying to live in hope, but failing miserably! I know that everyone is struggling, some days for me are better than others, I wasn’t going to do this, but I feel I have to, for the sake of my own mental health. [….. I fear it’s only going to get worse.] I just feel, that at times, sharing how we really feel, when it’s safe to do so, is so important as we move forward during this time. I am not wanting or needing attention, that is not my intention, I just want to share, how I’m really feeling without any stigma or judgement.

Here are the replies I received in response to my invitation, each in a separate paragraph. They are posted in full and unedited.

  • I think lots of uncertainty causes the most issues with me and being away from all family for 5+ weeks now!
  • I live alone and I work alone (from home). I’ve been pretty much isolating since the start in February, mainly because both my parents were ill and moved into separate care homes and I wanted to be virus free in case I got the chance to visit them. I saw my dad in July at mums funeral, then last week dad died. It’s not the virus that bothers me, as much as the people who are dying alone and the families that are unable to see the people they love. My dad was so much in love with mum and hadn’t seen her since Valentine’s Day. If he wanted to talk about mum, if he wanted to share memories, if he wanted to be comforted it had to be done with a stranger in a care home and not by his family. It’s the craziness of the rules why you can buy vodka in Tesco’s but a child’s winter coat is taped off as non essential. It’s the pubs opening and closing suddenly at 10pm then the complaints that people are all leaving the pub at the same time and too drunk to socially distance. I’m fed up of the ****** four walls but there’s no escape. I’m fed up of people complaining that some stranger in the supermarket didn’t wear a face mask, I’m fed up of others complaining that it’s a hoax. I’m just fed up of the endless nothingless of it all.
  • We have been in strict lockdown for about 3 months here in Melbourne – this included curfews, not being allowed to leave your home except to work (if deemed an essential worker), exercise (for 1-2 hours a day depending on what month it was) or shop for essential items (and only one person from the household once a day). I’m not going to say it was easy, it truly wasn’t. I’ve been in relative isolation since March 17 as I have chronic health conditions and my doctors felt it was best, but knowing that even if I wanted to bend the rules I couldn’t made feel harder than it was. Having said that, every day watching the numbers tumble from 700+ positive tests daily to double digits to single digits to two days of 0 positive tests (and our testing numbers have still been quite high) actually gave me genuine joy. Knowing that we are protecting our health system and the vulnerable made it seem worth it. Today I went out for about an hour to grab some firewood and get our weekly shop because finally the restrictions are lifted (though we still can’t go outside our 25km radius of home, and I can’t see my family because they live in regional Victoria which has its borders closed to us suburban Victorians and city folk!) and to be honest, I was actually a little scared. I don’t want the numbers to go up again because people flaunt their new “freedom”, as I’m worried that will mean that we can’t see family for Christmas! I know things will normalise into whatever CoVid normal is in the future but right now it still feels a bit surreal. I feel blessed to still have my health (though I did spend 8 days in a hospital without having any visitors due to the rules during lockdown) and I’m lucky enough to be able to work from home, but I’m sad I haven’t met my 8 week old niece, and I’m sad I can’t see my parents, sister and other nieces. Overall though, I’m just thankful for the life I have, for a warm and safe home, for technology to keep in touch with family and friends and for the ability to continue to work and earn a living when so many others have lost their jobs.
  • I came home from my after work walk yesterday and began crying uncontrollably as I approached and entered my home. I turned to tiktok, and even though I spent 2 hours on it instead of eating dinner, I was super happy! It makes me feel more connected to other humans than any other online platform. I think it’s because we enter one another’s homes and lives in a unique way there. And it’s silly as all get out too!

You might like to add your responses in the comments.

Invictus (William Ernest Henley)

Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find, me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll.
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.

William Ernest Henley (1849-1903)

The Call (Charlotte Mew)

From our low seat beside the fire
Where we have dozed and dreamed and watched the glow
Or raked the ashes, stopping so
We scarcely saw the sun or rain
Above, or looked much higher
Than this same quiet red or burned-out fire.
To-night we heard a call,
A rattle on the window-pane,
A voice on the sharp air,
And felt a breath stirring our hair,
A flame within us: Something swift and tall
Swept in and out and that was all.
Was it a bright or a dark angel? Who can know?
It left no mark upon the snow,
But suddenly it snapped the chain
Unbarred, flung wide the door
Which will not shut again;
And so we cannot sit here any more.
We must arise and go:
The world is cold without
And dark and hedged about
With mystery and enmity and doubt,
But we must go
Though yet we do not know
Who called, or what marks we shall leave upon the snow.

Charlotte Mary Mew (1869-1928)

Encouragement Costs Nothing

Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus, whom the apostles called Barnabas (which means ‘son of encouragement’), sold a field he owned and brought the money and put it at the apostles’ feet. Acts 4:36-37

Barnabas is shown in the Acts of the Apostles to be a model Christian leader. He was a native of Cyprus, was active in the Jerusalem church and demonstrated unselfish generosity in meeting the needs of the poorer members of that community (Acts 4:32-37).

His given name was Joseph, but his nickname was Barnabas, meaning son of encouragement, one which clearly indicated his character.

Bible Reading: Acts 11:19-24

Barnabas was able to give a fair assessment of the new church in Antioch, perceiving God’s blessing to be there, and he encouraged them all to remain true to the Lord with all their hearts.

His character was one of transparent goodness and abundant faith, combined with a Spirit-filled life and ministry. The leaders of the Antioch church chose him as their representative on the first missionary journey, confirming their recognition of his worth (Acts 13:1-3).

Barnabas was John Mark’s cousin and mentor and he played a major role in giving John Mark a second chance to make good as a Christian leader (Acts 15:36-40).

Barnabas wasn’t perfect, he gave in to peer pressure on one occasion, although he knew better (Galatians 2:11-16). Even so, he was a son of encouragement to many, and a generous, unselfish man who fostered growth in others and in the church.

We’re also imperfect human beings, and so the life of Barnabas can be an encouragement to us. Encouragement costs nothing, and it can really lift other people. So, why not make a point of encouraging someone every day, especially in these difficult times?

Diwali: Festival of Lights

Diwali came very much to the front of my mind when I lived in Leicester, mainly because the city has a very large and diverse ethnic minority population, their Diwali celebrations are widely believed to be the largest outside of India.

Diwali is the Indian Festival of Lights, it’s one of the most popular festivals of Hinduism, symbolising the spiritual victory of light over darkness, good over evil, and knowledge over ignorance.

Obviously restricted in 2020 because of the coronavirus pandemic, normally there are 6,500 lights all along Belgrave and Melton Roads, around fifty separate events spread across the city over a two-week period, including music, dance and live performances in a variety of venues, all ending with a spectacular firework display.

National Parks UK

I came across this wonderful website today, one that immediately made me long for the great outdoors (even if we explore it on a screen). It also reminded me of the wealth of beautiful landscapes we are blessed with in the UK.

The website is stunning from the moment it loads, the above screenshot of a moving image can’t do it justice. There are 14 National Parks in the UK, and this site makes exploring them easier than ever.

Having made a few clicks, this is a terrific site. Lots of great photography and comprehensive information. No time to describe it all to you, just go and explore it for yourself. Click here.