Border controls

Another postcard rom the land of grief

The further I go into this land of grief, the more I become aware of those things which were removed from me at the border without my knowledge or consent. Somehow at the border parts of my memories were confiscated. Never the whole of them – but there are patches missing, as if an over-zealous border guard has combed through them and left gaps. The patting down of my sense of perspective was a little ‘vigorous’ too – leaving it mis-shapen and needing to find its level again – which I have no doubt it will.

Every once in a while, though, I find some little gem here. I turn it over with glee, like finding contraband chocolate smuggled through under the very noses of the border guards. One such is a music box, which I found yesterday. It was presented to us on arrival in our first church, newly married. It depicts the two of us, with an unrecognisable amount of hair. With a little persuasion, the figure of me still rotates, slightly wonky, to the tune of ‘happy wanderer’.  What really made me smile, though, was that in order to take the photo, I had to prop the two of us up against one another.

Got that one past customs at the border, didn’t I?

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Glimmers of advent hope

Alfred Delp was a courageous young Jesuit priest, imprisoned in Nazi Germany for knowing too much. He was held in solitary confinement, hands in chains, until his execution. His advent sermons, smuggled out of the prison in his washing, constitute the most remarkable statement of advent theology I have ever encountered. Last year, I suggested the idea of a collaborative advent calendar, celebrating the defiance of advent hope against the darkness. This year, in my own particular darkness – it seems more appropriate than ever. Each day one of Alfred Delp’s advent sayings will be displayed here from the calendar below.

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Glimmers of advent hope

Alfred Delp was a courageous young Jesuit priest, imprisoned in Nazi Germany for knowing too much. He was held in solitary confinement, hands in chains, until his execution. His advent sermons, smuggled out of the prison in his washing, constitute the most remarkable statement of advent theology I have ever encountered. Last year, I suggested the idea of a collaborative advent calendar, celebrating the defiance of advent hope against the darkness. This year, in my own particular darkness – it seems more appropriate than ever. Each day one of Alfred Delp’s advent sayings will be displayed here from the calendar below.

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Glimmers of advent hope

Alfred Delp was a courageous young Jesuit priest, imprisoned in Nazi Germany for knowing too much. He was held in solitary confinement, hands in chains, until his execution. His advent sermons, smuggled out of the prison in his washing, constitute the most remarkable statement of advent theology I have ever encountered. Last year, I suggested the idea of a collaborative advent calendar, celebrating the defiance of advent hope against the darkness. This year, in my own particular darkness – it seems more appropriate than ever. Each day one of Alfred Delp’s advent sayings will be displayed here from the calendar below.

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Glimmers of advent hope  

 

Alfred Delp was a courageous young Jesuit priest, imprisoned in Nazi Germany for knowing too much. He was held in solitary confinement, hands in chains, until his execution. His advent sermons, smuggled out of the prison in his washing, constitute the most remarkable statement of advent theology I have ever encountered. Last year, I suggested the idea of a collaborative advent calendar, celebrating the defiance of advent hope against the darkness. This year, in my own particular darkness – it seems more appropriate than ever. Each day one of Alfred Delp’s advent sayings will be displayed here from the calendar below.

Delptree.jpg

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Glimmers of advent hope  

 

Alfred Delp was a courageous young Jesuit priest, imprisoned in Nazi Germany for knowing too much. He was held in solitary confinement, hands in chains, until his execution. His advent sermons, smuggled out of the prison in his washing, constitute the most remarkable statement of advent theology I have ever encountered. Last year, I suggested the idea of a collaborative advent calendar, celebrating the defiance of advent hope against the darkness. This year, in my own particular darkness – it seems more appropriate than ever. Each day one of Alfred Delp’s advent sayings will be displayed here from the calendar below.

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Times and spaces

Another postcard from the land of grief

One of the features of travelling outside your own country is that you find yourself unable to read amounts – be they of money, distance or ingredients. The ‘small’ pack of a familiar ingredient in a foreign supermarket may be way too big, or the ‘large’ pack in another may be way too small. Distances can be deceptive too. Two towns which look adjacent on a map may be miles apart, or hours apart, depending upon the traffic conditions.

I am finding that I am unable to read this particular map. The distance between this task and the next one may appear to be very short, and yet it will take hours, or weeks. The distance from here to the borders of the land where I used to live is one which I cannot begin to calculate.

As ever when staying abroad, shopping can prove to be an interesting experience. Not having the right coin with me, I had to ask a member of staff to release a trolley for me. ‘Big or small?’ she asked. Momentarily thrown off balance, I reluctantly replied ‘small’. In fact, my judgement had been poor, and even the small trolley was too big. I shall have to learn how to shop here, I think.

 

 

 

 

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Glimmers of advent hope 

 

Alfred Delp was a courageous young Jesuit priest, imprisoned in Nazi Germany for knowing too much. He was held in solitary confinement, hands in chains, until his execution. His advent sermons, smuggled out of the prison in his washing, constitute the most remarkable statement of advent theology I have ever encountered. Last year, I suggested the idea of a collaborative advent calendar, celebrating the defiance of advent hope against the darkness. This year, in my own particular darkness – it seems more appropriate than ever. Each day one of Alfred Delp’s advent sayings will be displayed here from the calendar below.

Delptree.jpg

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Glimmers of advent hope

 

Alfred Delp was a courageous young Jesuit priest, imprisoned in Nazi Germany for knowing too much. He was held in solitary confinement, hands in chains, until his execution. His advent sermons, smuggled out of the prison in his washing, constitute the most remarkable statement of advent theology I have ever encountered. Last year, I suggested the idea of a collaborative advent calendar, celebrating the defiance of advent hope against the darkness. This year, in my own particular darkness – it seems more appropriate than ever. Each day one of Alfred Delp’s advent sayings will be displayed here from the calendar below.

Delptree.jpg

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Shadows and reflections

A fourth postcard from the land of grief

I have just returned from Pembrokeshire. As ever, it was glorious, with early sunlight gilding every wave and the skies a masterpiece of delicate beauty.

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More than ever, on this occasion, it has felt like a ‘thin’ place – where the veil between heaven and earth is like gauze pulled so tight that you can all but peep through it to the other side. I have felt uncomfortably close to my ‘bravest and best’ as I have walked these beaches which she loved so much.

As ever with foreign travel, though, it makes you feel differently about the place you have left behind. In the place I was living before this happened, we cling onto life, by our very fingernails if necessary, since it is all so precious. We drink deeply of beauty, we savour every landscape, we build memories as if they were a dam against the flood of time.

Walking on these beaches again though, I find myself wondering how they compare to those which heaven has to offer? If you pick up a seashell there, can you hear the crash of waves here only as faintly as you imagined you could when you picked up a seashell and did that as a child? If you look at a sky of deep indigo and palest pink there, do you recall other skies as pale imitations, like a faded photograph?

When I was a very new pastor, I remember walking away from the bedside of a dying patient with the line of a hymn insistently going round my mind. The person in the bed was frail, sick and physically weak, and yet I knew that was about to change:

‘We feebly struggle, they in glory shine.’

In the picture below, it is odd that the one who lives is in more shadow than the one who does so no longer. In this particular photograph from the land of grief, the camera does not lie.