Friday, September 07, 2007


My mind was called across the years
Of rages and of strife
Of all the human misery
And all the waste of life

We wondered where our God was
In the face of so much pain
I looked up to the stars above
To find you once again

We travelled the wide oceans
Heard many call your name
With sword and gun and hatred
It all seemed much the same

Some used your name for glory
Some used it for their gain
Yet when liberty lay wanting
No lives were lost in vain

Is it not our place to wonder
As the sky does weep with tears
And all the living creatures
Look on with mortal fear
(Beneath A Phrygian Sky: Loreena McKennitt)

A disciple asked his guru, 'How am i to attain peace when there is so much noise around this village? Every time I try to meditate, there's a rooster crowing or a child crying or a dog barking. I can't concentrate on my prayers.' The guru said nothing but took the man by the hand and led him into the forest. They walked for some time until they came across a small pool. It was a windy day and the surface of the pond had become choppy.

'What do you see in the pool?' the guru asked. 'It is troubled,' replied the disciple. His master then bid him dive into the pool, to the bottom. When he emerged from the water, his master asked him again what he saw in the pool. 'It is still and deep,' the man answered. 'So then,' said the master, 'you must learn how to pray from the water.'

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Euphoria collides....

You know, words are elusive in the aftermath of such beauty. Moments of transcendance are now filtered by the everyday mundane - the juxtaposition of life I guess. Father O'Donohue once told me that the duty of maturity is to awaken one's mind and bring it home; he said that too many neglect their minds and so never awaken their hearts. I guess Greenbelt is such a waking bed, a place, an arena where we come back to the harbour of ourselves and ask who we are becoming. So often we are on the run from ourselves. Maybe if we were to sit down and travel to the heart of our own darkness and face our demons we just may begin to see that they don't quite have the power over us we once thought....

Fear can be like a fog and it's only antidote is love...something this festival is drenched in - a prophetic place of grace where God is illuminated in the mirror of our souls - a place of new frontiers - a landscape where we do not waste our hearts on fear anymore...but instead we look to hope, to possibility, before the euphoria of a thin place collides with the thick hard land of everyday life.

This year there was most definitely a fragrance of something that is in us and yet just out of our reach.... grace notes were

wonderful late night conversations with the lovely (want to take you home to meet my mum - she'd love you!) steve beautiful imperfect Pip belfast's delectable beauty Dr 'soon to be lost to the land of the free and exraordinarly brave' Higgins (not everyday you get a large pink brassiere thrown at you when you're on stage!!!!! the Woodie Guthrie of Wales, his side kick the beguiling Stewart Henderson< Ken, Big John Colin, Father 'O' himself and many more.... grace conversations 'that taught our hearts to fear, and grace...that fear relieved'

Talkin with an old prophet over crap hotel pizza (it didn't matter) and a bottle of claret, where I realised that we are not as strong as we think we are. I guess John (Smith) always seemed larger than life - a while back it seemed the only thing he couldn't do was walk on water (and I reckon he'd have got a fair way if he'd tried) - older in years now and awaiting tests on his return to Aus, I realised my own mortality because of his, and you know what? His fragility holds more strength than his Elijah like days ever did...someone who is most definitely on the side of the angels.

Pip describes him as a sensational singer and performer, real communicator rather than smug - flash - 'pretend-pro' performer. Michael McDermott was one of two acts I wanted to see - he did not disappoint. Wearing his heart on his sleeve he expressed an aching and a longing to find his place in this world through his own torture as a beautiful imperfect human becoming. A no holds barred artist - raw, real, sensitive, creative, beguiling and wonderful. Few artists reveal their true selves for fear of rejection, yet there was no bull-shit with this dear broken vessel. He embodied for me what Thomas Merton observes; that "The end of all seeking is purity of heart - a clear unobstructed vision of the true state of affairs,an intuitive grasp of ones own inner reality as anchored or rather lost in God. " A truly inspiring man who took me out of my comfort - thanks Dave for bringing him and for the introduction....look forward to seeing where the connection journeys....

Then there was the rather overweight kid who ran as fast as he could to give back a cool as hell teen god his daily diary that had fallen from his half way down his ass jeans (what is that about?) as he raced through the site on his scooter...not glamorous I know but it was a kindness I rarely see...I pray moments of grace come back on him tenfold...

My almost 'Greenbelt moment' (a bloody close call) was on friday morning as i was waiting in the hotel for a lift to site. I was sat reading when am man i recognised said hi. It was Mark Yaconelli, son of my dear messy departed friend Yac. I was sat in the very same place I was when I met his dad 7 years earlier. We hugged and exchanged a thousand words without speaking....when he left I sat and wept, his mannerisms, looks and rhythm of speech was uncannily like his father's....brought back memories of big moments....

* note, check out mark's talks - outstanding - he out sold everyone, and that has nothing to do with whose son he is!

Then there were my tears as I watched the L'arche community eat flesh and drink blood on sunday morning - they reminded me that the eucharist is the real presence where the veil comes down; the mystery where the balance between light and darkness is most apparent....No wonder Vanier and Nouwen learned so much there...

And on the final night, act number two on my wanted list - Duke Special - wonderful theatre, so original, affectionately funny and so bloody refreshing to see a band having fun on stage. They closed out the festival beautifully.

My 'Greenbelt moment' though came (as they always do) by surprise. It was Billy Bragg's fault entirely. In 'The Rising' on Saturday lunch time, Martyn asked Billy what, more than anything keeps moving and inspiring him to pick up a guitar; what had been his 'I have been to the mountin-top' moment. As the question was asked I instinctively remembered a few people he has worked/collaborated with - Elvis Costello, Bonnie Raitt, Jackson Browne, Tom Waits, Bruce Springsteen and Roy Orbison sprang to mind - but no, none of them had shaped Billy more than a group of women from Weymouth who were terminally ill with cancer. Particularly a lady called Maxine, who loved Dolly Parton. She had breast cancer and had been given only a short time to live.

I guess we all struggle to say that which we need to to the ones we love the most, those who need to hear it. So often we are raised in silence, to do the 'right thing' and what I mean by that is we say nothing at all. The women who attended the song-writing workshops that Billy conducted at the Trimar Hospice in Weymouth during February 2005 had other ideas though. Mr Bragg was invited to take part in the project by Rosetta Life, a charity dedicated to helping those facing terminal illness to share their experiences through the medium of art, poetry, film or song. Every Friday morning for six weeks, he worked with half a dozen women who came to the hospice for palliative care as they fought against the effects of breast cancer.

Billy said that after a couple of weeks of talking about the process of song- writing and a few singalongs, the ‘Friday Girls’ began opening up to the idea of writing a song. Maxine Edgington had the clearest idea of what she wanted to do. In their first one-on-one session, she pulled a framed picture out of her bag and said ‘Look, I’ve been given six months to live. I don’t want to mess about. I want to write the song of this picture’.

When her condition was diagnosed in November 2004, Maxine’s thoughts turned immediately to how she would be remembered, particularly by her fifteen year old daughter, Jessica. Determined that Jess should have positive memories of her after the grieving was over, Maxine commissioned a professional photo shoot which produced beautiful images of mother and daughter smiling together, looking as if they had not a care in the world. This was how she wanted to be remembered. As Maxine said ‘Cancer is terrible, but at least it gives you the chance to put things right with those you love’

Billy performed the song and a few thousand people stopped and wept....the line that broke me was, 'The hardest part of living is giving back that which has been given.' hmmm....

...very much, heaven in ordinary...

So, i guess Gb is a place where strangers don't feel so strange, a thin sacred safe place for those who live in fear of themselves. And somehow it allows us to see that our lives are a beautiful mess, the way they should be...and that's alright, that's ok...because that causes us to kneel, and that my friends is surely the beginning of becoming whole...

I left this years festival recognising more than ever that God lies right here beside us in the gutter, whilst grace like a mother holds us closer than any mary only disappointment was not getting enough space to chew that fat with such good friends as The Very gifted Mr Wroe Shirley Maggie Markus Cary Lovely Jude Pete (though we did manage a couple of organic beers) Rollins Beautiful Steve and the kindly Mog....and yet again I didn't manage to get to the bloody provocative and fantastically good IKON year....please's late tonight, but I raise a glass as it raises me.....the following shots are by the wonderful Andy - he is available for Ok weddings (and other glam occasions).....and can be found at