A New Beginning

Scotney Flowers

Welcome to the new-look crammedwithheaven.org blog and website. If you have been here before, or if you are a follower and have wondered about the site’s inactivity, then I am happy to announce a new beginning.

Not only do we have a new and clearer appearance to the site, but the content has been revised and refocused. Most importantly, in its new era there will be regular blogs and an expanding fund of resources on some of the pages.

When I began the blog in 2011 I was on study leave in Italy and was reflecting on art and spirituality. You can still find my musings my Italian Journey page. Since then I have done a lot more painting and, I hope, a lot more praying. You can find some of my more recent art works through the GALLERY menu and there will still be a focus on the visual arts in this site. But I now want to both widen  the range and sharpen the focus of crammedwithheaven.org.

The range of my musings will continue to embrace art and spirituality but will now also include poetry. In the spirit of a reflective practitioner, I want to both practise these things and reflect upon them. The static web pages will offer resources for worship, together with some of my paintings, poems and prayers. There will also be a small number of pages dedicated to the academic study of these creative areas and their relationship to praying and doing theology. The now-to-be-regular blogs will offer a mix of reflection, study and artistic creations of one kind or another. So:

PRAYER, PAINTING AND POETRY

– REFLECTIONS, STUDIES AND RESOURCES

I hope you find this new era of crammedwithheaven.org both interesting and useful. If you do then please tell a friend!

In a country church

In this church all is still,
but for the clock’s tick;
the bell ropes hang
waiting for the ringers’ tug.
The pews wait for restless worshippers
or tired travellers;
the windows send threads of sun
along the pews’ edges
and silence waits to be filled.

Something coalesces –
is it the presence of God?
or is it my racing pulse
slowing to the pace of reflected memories?
In the space,
in the silence,
in the need,
in the waiting,
there is room for God.

Christopher J Ellis

 

In my Head

In my head,
my jogging becomes a run,
bounding over ditches
and crossing the finishing line
well ahead of the field.

In my head,
my waistline diminishes,
I watch only the news on TV
and always work effectively.

In my head,
I think creatively,
wait patiently
and love constantly.

In my head,
I practise relentlessly,
exercise regularly
and pray constantly.

In my heart,
the butterfly flits,
distractions distract
and the compass needle spins.

In my heart,
sloth slides onto the sofa
and tomorrow never comes.

Lord, renew my heart
and direct my thoughts,
through Jesus Christ my Lord – really…

Christopher J Ellis

Remember

Remember

 ‘Remember in the dark what you learned in the light’

 

Darkness folds in and smothers hope:
directions disintegrate,
perspectives perversely shift,
space spins,
thought telescopes
character crumbles.

The fish limp in poacher’s bag,
gagged hostage, foetal-folded,
bundled in the boot;
the scanned patient stripped and still,
torn between truth and mercy;
the unsleeping sleeper staring
at the unfriendly ceiling.

When nothing can be seen,
but fears dance like shadows at the stairs’ turn,
when action melts into gearless stare
and plans dissolve into passivity.

Now is the time:
when there is no looking forward
and the present is ominously stalled.

Now is the time to look back:
to remember daylight,
shafts of light casting clear shadows,
sparkles of sun lighting dark textures,
the search of memory bringing echoes of faithfulness,
of wisdom explored,
promises kept,
love’s embrace.

To remember the light
and wait for the light;
when pathos becomes patience,
when terror becomes trust,
when darkness dazzles with wonder and grace.

                                                               Christopher Ellis

Photograph: Sunset in West Bridgford 15.1.12

crammed with heaven

Earth’s crammed with heaven,
And every common bush afire with God:
But only he who sees, takes off his shoes,
The rest sit round it, and pluck blackberries…
from Aurora Leigh by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s lines have often been quoted by writers on spirituality.They are an invitation to see in the world signs of God’s presence and glory.

Yet they carry a caution about eating blackberries which could be misunderstood. Such sentiments could be seen as a form of elitism. ‘I can see what you can’t see!’ We might even call it a form of aesthetic gnosticism if we wanted to coin some fancy language, suggesting that you have to be in the know, or part of a special group, in order to see the glory. The teaching of Jesus goes in quite a different direction:

Then turning to the disciples, Jesus said to them privately, ‘Blessed are the eyes that see what you see!  For I tell you that many prophets and kings desired to see what you see, but did not see it, and to hear what you hear, but did not hear it.’ (Luke 10.23f.)

This business of seeing is elusive – it is about having eyes open – about not being distracted by accumulating things – about seeing the world as gift – about a readiness to appreciate what we see (or hear) without immediately assuming it is for our gain – remember the story of Winnie the Pooh and the bees!

It’s not straightforward – but, then, simplicity often isn’t , because the labyrinthine workings of our hearts are not straightforward. But I hope my musings on this blog will be an invitation to see the glory – or be wanting to see the glory (which is a good start). I’ll muse on other themes as well, but I hope we can develop a conversation which encourages us to see better and see more consistently the glory of God.

One closing thought: it isn’t only in beauty that we see the glory of God (see Isaiah 53.2f.) but that’s a theme for another day…