2022 Advent 1:
No Remembering here …
I have been thinking recently of images from World War 1 which depict the environmental damage sustained. It is a reminder that war affects not just humanity but our natural environment as well.
Today, the focus of our Remembrance is, necessarily, shifting from the ‘Great War’ to other conflicts which litter the last century and engage us in new and increasingly personal ways … which, while even more destructive, still beg the question ‘Why?’.
So, this is the first of my Remembrance 2022 poems …
Ash Wednesday 2022
This year, as we emerge
from the catacombs,
to tentatively recover
the physical elements
of faith that Covid has interrupted,
we come masked to receive
a sign that all should see.
As the ashes are imposed,
am I more conscious of my own frailty?
My life expectancy is less than it was last time …
I hobble back to my seat.
The dust is gathering
at the edges of my being.
The old enemy has me in his sights
and is poised to attack.
All he sees is dust and ashes …
like a city, bombed and blasted,
under the weight of an aggressor …
rubble covers the foundations
and all seems lost.
it is the foundations
which matter …
All he can claim is
dust and ashes
“The Lord knows who are his …”
We bear the mark
of the Crucified One:
we have already died in him
and he lives in us …
In our weakness is his strength.
In our poverty are his riches wealth.
In our fear
is his good courage.
In our loss
he is everything.
in the cruelty of this fallen world,
and with this feeble body,
lead me, Lord,
to serve and worship you
in the newness
of your risen life.
Not here the guns and bayonets, the barbed and twisted wire; the trenches and the foxholes, the bombs and bloody mire. This is another battle with harbingers of death and regiments are fighting with every living breath. For everyone’s a hero who has served and played their part, the front line and the rearguard, with mind and soul and heart. Yet, though they’ve been applauded and we have stood in awe, crisis followed crisis ... how could they take much more? But, from new depths of duty, compassion found a way and hope shone through the rainbow as night gave way to day. Our Majesty now takes the lead and with her we confess our deepest debt of gratitude to our great NHS.
(c) 2021 Graham Oakes
Children of Jerusalem
Children of Jerusalem
welcome Jesus, as he welcomed you,
despite adults’ raised hands and voices;
the angry frowns and looks that could kill.
He comes for you –
let your joy be as unrestrained as his love;
be happy in his presence while you play,
it is balm to his hurting soul.
Have no ambition for this grown-up world
which has lost its way of wonder
and forgotten how to see things
as they really are.
See him on the donkey and laugh at the fun of it.
Spread your palm leaves, dance before him and
live in this precious moment.
One day you will understand
why innocent humility
entered your city and your life.
But, for now,
it is enough just to experience it
as only you,
Children of Jerusalem,
(c) 2021 Graham Oakes
This is my reflection for this year’s Remembrance which combines the Autumn season and the two acts of Remembrance that we, as Christians, commemorate together.
This is a video of the poem …
Restore my soul
This song began life as a result of a mountain top (for want of a better word) rant at God. I had been feeling pretty low for some time and needed to vent some frustration at him which, I can imagine you thinking, was a bit arrogant and disrespectful. But I think there are enough Psalms and other parts of Scripture which show this to be something that God understands and, perhaps, even encourages if it means we are being honest with him. I believe he blesses such openness and does respond with grace and mercy. That was certainly true in my case as he put my grievances in perspective and reminded me of his unfailing and steadfast love and compassion for me, despite all my failures and inadequacies.
So, as Psalm 23 explains, he will restore our souls … if we but ask …
When there’s darkness all around,
when I walk on stony ground,
when upon my knees I fall
and I make that final call ...
Lord, restore my soul.
Lord, restore my soul.
Restore my soul.
When I feel so very tired,
when my worship’s uninspired,
when I lose my sight of you
and I doubt the things you do ...
Lord, restore my soul ...
When I long for heaven’s rest,
when I think I’ve done my best,
when there’s more you ask from me
and I cry, “O, let me be!” ...
Lord, restore my soul ...
(c) 2020 Graham Oakes
Out there, somewhere …
About 28 years ago we went through a family experience that everyone dreads. Our youngest son (aged 2) was missing, on a dark, cold winter’s night.
It was two weeks before we were due to fly home on UK leave and Gail and I were attending a rare hospital meal at the restaurant. We had just ordered when I was called to a phone, someone was asking for me. It was about 7:30 pm.
The phone call was from our babysitter. She nervously explained that Gethin was ‘missing’. She had heard the back door and found it was open. She searched the house. She searched outside and called his name but couldn’t see or hear him. This was when she decided to call and tell me what had happened
My first response was to disbelieve her although I soon realised that she was extremely concerned, not to mention embarrassed. I told her that I would come home straight away.
I went back to the table and told Gail that I was going home for a bit and that I would be back soon.
When I arrived home I searched the house. I also went outside and called Gethin’s name. At this point Ceryn, aged 8 came home from Cubs and became very upset when she realized what was happening. She started calling his name as well. I wondered if he might have followed us down the hill to the harbour although of course he would never have caught up with us. He didn’t like letting Gail out of his sight. My fear, however, was that he had headed in the opposite direction where there was rough ground and ice covered ponds.
I knocked on our neighbour’s door and asked if they had seen him. She said she hadn’t but lent me a torch. I carried on looking and she, unknown to me, called her husband who was training with the FIDF (Falkland Islands Defence Force). She also informed the Police. Still not finding him I decided that I had better go and tell Gail.
So, now both of us were leaving the party to quizzical looks from our hospital friends who didn’t have a clue what was going on. Later we found out that the mystery deepened for them when the Chief of Police, who was also there for a meal, got bleeped and rushed out and they saw vehicles, with blue lights flashing, racing by on the harbour road. Why hadn’t they been called as well they wondered.
Gail was obviously very upset when she understood the situation. As we got to the top of the hill we saw dozens of people around the house, some in uniform. The Police and the FIDF had turned up along with many locals as it had been announced on the local news service that a little boy was missing.
I spoke to the Detective in charge, who of course we knew, and he confirmed that he had searched the house so now they were looking in neighbours’ gardens their out-buildings and underneath those newer houses which were built on stilts. Time was going on and still no sign of him.
Some of our close friends, including the vicar and his wife, had turned up in support and we were in our kitchen just waiting for news. I was very worried and Gail was frantic. I hardly believed that he would have survived after being outside for a couple of hours. I decided to pray, out loud, that God would keep him close to himself, wherever he was. It was a prayer of faith in God’s abiding love more than a prayer for his safe return …
Gail had been out shouting his name too but returned too upset to speak and left the kitchen to go into his bedroom. She lay down on his bed and reached for one of his cuddly toys. I had walked with her to the bedroom but thought it better to leave her alone for that moment so I walked back to the kitchen. I’d only taken a few steps when I heard her scream and thought she’d finally broken down. But she was shouting, “He’s here! He’s here!”
She came out with tears streaming down her face to tell us all that she had touched his head and found that he was down between the side of the bed and the wall! What a relief!
How do you define a miracle?
This was a happy ending but it had been a really traumatic couple of hours.
It was gone 9pm and I had to go and tell the Detective that we had found him. He asked me where and how. I told him. He too found it hard to believe … then he shouted to everyone to stand down because the boy had been found. He didn’t say where …
Only after the event did we realize what a tremendous effort had been made by everyone in this small community to reach out and help. We also learned that the military were on the verge of scrambling a helicopter.
The next day I rang the FIDF and Police to thank them for what they had done only to be thanked by them for the best exercise they had had for a long time! They said they had learned so much about searching for missing people.
I think I learned a lot from that episode too but that’s another story …
I also contacted the local Broadcasting Station to say thank you to the community for their help and support. This was the song I dedicated to them. And I thought that, on this Father’s Day, I’d share it with you:
This version is sung by Father and Daughter duo Mat and Savannah Shaw (who have only been singing on Youtube since the start of the Pandemic) and is a beautiful example of a father sharing a moment with one of his children … so, in memory of one of our moments here’s “Somewhere, out there …”
This started off as a music project for Charlotte who is in Lockdown with us and has to do various things for her schoolwork. It uses images from the walks we have been on and teaches her something about the way audio / video recordings are made … (not that I’m any great expert).