Reclaim the Sabbath

Life is about presence, not productivity.

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The writer Abraham Joshua Heschel said that the Sabbath is ‘a cathedral in time’. Sadly, most of our Sabbaths seem to have done a Notre Dame and burned down (too soon?).

It’s time to rebuild.

I’ve always found it fascinating that ‘keep the Sabbath holy’ makes it onto the ten commandments. On the same list that says ‘do not kill’ and ‘do not steal’, God says ‘make sure you take time every week to unwind properly.’

God must have seen consumerism coming, and given us a weapon to fight it with.

Sabbath is a declaration that we are human beings, not human doings.

Sabbath is a protest against over-consumption.

Sabbath says that life is about presence, not productivity.

In a world that keeps shouting ‘more’, Sabbath says ‘less’. In a world that keeps shouting ‘work’, Sabbath says ‘rest’.

So how do we keep the Sabbath holy in 2019? It’s not going to happen by accident. You’ve got to be deliberate and purposeful – aggressively breaking free from the grip of busyness. You can decide for yourself exactly what that looks like, but here are five suggestions:

1) Unplug. Human civilisation survived ten thousand years without phones. You can manage for a day – you’ll be amazed at how liberating it can feel! Ditto TV/Netflix.

2) Do something that makes your soul sing. Go for a walk. Read a book. Listen to your favourite music. Cook good food with good friends. Spend quality time (see point 1) with the people you love.

3) Buy nothing. Step off the consumer treadmill.

4) Be still. Embrace quietness. Pray. Meditate. Be.

5) Relax. Rest. Revel in being as unproductive as you can.

Heschel again: ‘The seventh day is an armistice in our struggle for existence. It is a truce in all conflicts, personal and social. It is the exodus from tension, and the liberation of humanity from our own muddiness.’ Sounds pretty good to me.

Gideon x

Love

‘A world that seems divided can be remade by love,
this fight is one-sided – the universe was built by love
and it was made for us to come together.’

Easter weekend is about the triumph of love over all. However fierce hatred may seem, love is fiercer. However deep our divisions may seem, love runs deeper. However strong despair and even death may seem, love is stronger.

MAKE SPACE

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I’m doing a digital declutter for Lent, so I’m not going to be ‘around’ on the internet for a while.

Technology is useful, but much of it isn’t vital; if we let it take over our lives, it can be harmful.

That’s why it’s important to take stock of the digital tools we use and ask some simple questions: is what this adds to my life worth more than what it takes away? Is the way I’m using this technology helping me to flourish? Or, my favourite question to ask of anything: is this making me more or less alive?

I think most of us will be aware that our relationship with social media and smartphones isn’t an entirely healthy one. Your attention is a precious gift, and a lot of these technologies are deliberately and aggressively designed to take away as much of it as possible, as often as possible. And if we don’t change anything, nothing will change.

I see Lent as a great opportunity to address this. It’s a chance to, as Henry David Thoreau put it, ‘put to rout all that is not life.’ Take time to think about what you truly value in life, and how you really want to spend your ‘shining, unrepeatable days.’ What really matters in your life – and how can your turn more of your time and attention to it?

These maxims don’t just apply to technology, of course, but all of the clutter and busyness in our lives.

However you spend Lent (or if you don’t ‘spend’ it at all), I pray that it will be a time where you can find more space for everything good, vibrant and worthy – and that includes yourself!

See you on the other side,

Gideon x

(PS a number of my poems are featured in Tearfund’s Lent devotional, as well as some reflections written by myself and others. Do check it out if you’re looking for a devotional to use this Lent.)

NOTHING BUT YOU

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You don’t need permission
to splash around
in your aliveness.

I need you to feel this.
I need you to know
in the midst of this madness
that your life is real.

The blood charging through your veins
on a mission to make you vibrant
I swear to you
it’s not fake.

That mind of yours
too often afraid
yet itself fearsome
a God ray
a thing of beauty —
no one is making it up.

And your soul
(which if you saw,
oh the tears
of joy
of apology
of gratitude)
yes, that too.

You don’t need permission
to splash around
in your aliveness.
The universe may well be asking for it.

A brighter thing than this world
is calling to you
shouting at you
desperate to let you know
that you can be kind to yourself —
that you can love
wildly
your own body
and spirit
exactly as they are.

The heavens are not demanding.
All they ask for is you
being nothing but you.

It doesn’t matter what has been earned
or not
for we are here —
the book has been opened
and the whole thing
is moving forward
one diamond moment
at a time.

I need you to see this.
I need you to see,
and to join in.

– Gideon Heugh

WHY FAITH?

 

It’s hard to have faith when the world seems to be falling apart. But it’s also necessary. Faith keeps us moving forward. Faith makes us get up when we’ve been knocked down. Faith is why – even though the odds seem stacked against us – we’ll never stop living with hope and love.

Very proud of this video I put together with the charity Tearfund. They do amazing work around the world, empowering communities to lift themselves out of poverty. And faith is at the heart of it all.

BEGINNING

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Before the beginning there was a blank page,
an empty space onto which would be written
the story of the universe.

Before the beginning
there was a singularity of possibility,
an infinitely small dot
heavy as the body of God,
pulsating with the shining imagination
of potential, of all that could be:

all of the energy and the dark matter
and the wildflowers and the stars
all of the mud and photons and quarks
and the lovers and the broken hearts
all of the rage and the ruin
and the redemption and the dancing
and the galaxies colliding
all of the birth and death and sex
and salvation.

Before the beginning
there was an intake of breath,
the divine lungs filling
with hope and fire
and the shaking multitude of souls,
then there came a roar,
a symphony of relentless light
a wild explosion of creation
the universe tripping over itself
in the becoming of its becoming,

and through it all,
through the fury and the wonder,
a gentle, powerful, playful voice
sighing over everything
it is good, it is good, it is good,

and beneath that declaration
a heartbeat,
a bass note pounding out
the deep rhythm of time.
Even now
when you put your ear to the ground
you will hear it,
sounding strangely similar
to love.

 

– Gideon Heugh

Sonnet for the end of the world

The WWF recently published a report showing that we’ve wiped out 60% of animal life since 1970. The truth that none of us want to hear is that we are responsible. Our consumer lifestyles – especially our desire for an unending supply of cheap meat – are what’s fuelling this destruction. All of the wonder, beauty and diversity of this stunning earth is being annihilated so that we can have the things we want. This news should fill us with rage and grief, yet those emotions mean nothing if we don’t act. 

‘We are the first generation to know we are destroying our planet, and the last one that can do anything about it.’ – Tanya Steele, Chief Executive of the WWF.

Sonnet for the end of the world

This is what happens when the world is obsessed with more,
This is what happens when our hearts are ruled by greed,
This is what happens when growth is the highest law,
This is what happens when we want convenience and speed.
This is what happens when we stuff ourselves with meat,
This is what happens when we’re addicted to fast fashion,
This is what happens when we don’t care about what we eat,
This is what happens when consumption is our passion.
This is what happens when we believe the establishment’s lies,
This is what happens when we think nature is ours to use,
This is what happens when we shut our ears and eyes,
This is what happens when we need to act but refuse.
If we don’t change now, there won’t be an earth to revive;
If we don’t change the way we live, there’ll be nothing left alive.
– Gideon Heugh

 

 

A prayer for my daughter

My apologies for not updating the website much recently. Our baby girl – Darcy Bluebell Starling – was born on 23 September and I’ve been a little busy since!

A few thoughts on fatherhood so far: breathtaking, exhausting, magical, terrifying, beautiful, smelly, awe-inspiring, anxiety-inducing, miraculous, mundane, deeply satisfying, intensely frustrating, the most natural thing in the world, the hardest thing in the world, holy… and holy crap I can’t believe we’re doing this.

Things are starting to settle into more of a routine now, so hopefully I’ll be posting on here a bit more regularly (no promises though!). Here’s a poem I wrote for Darcy – for all children, in fact.

A prayer for my daughter

I pray that you’ll scrape your knees.
I pray that you’ll roll down hills and climb up trees.
I pray that you’ll get scratched by brambles and stung by nettles,
that you’ll get stains on your clothes
from splashing in muddy puddles.
I pray that you’ll get dirt beneath your nails,
that you won’t turn up your nose at spiders or at snails.
I pray that you’ll always stop to listen to the birds,
and realise it’s okay when you cannot find the words.
I pray that you’ll know real life is found away from all the screens,
that it’s in the forests and the fields, the mountains and the streams.
I pray that you’ll get into mischief
but own up to your mistakes,
I pray you’ll have a heart that gives far more than it ever takes.
I pray you’ll know that all the gold in the world
is worth less than any flower,
that kindness is greater than status
and that love is greater than power.
I pray that you’ll fail a thousand times
and rise up a thousand and one,
and know when you fall that you’ll get caught
by the person you’ll become.
Most of all I pray for love to fill you every day.
Love never fails, love never fails, it never fails, come what may.

– Gideon Heugh

THE BRIGHT MATTER OF HEAVEN

A lot of religious people I’ve met have been convinced that anything to do with our bodies is evil. Often these will be the same people who’ve been told that this life is just something to be grimly endured before we’re beamed up somewhere else.

So what do I believe?

I believe in truth, and that at the centre of this truth is boundless love, and that it has a source, and that beauty is pointing us towards it.

I believe that life is a sacred gift. I believe that there is never not a good time to be compassionate and generous. I believe that there is a rhythm of resurrection and redemption built into the fabric of the universe.

I believe there is a deep, holy magic in taking our bodies out into the world and experiencing the wonder of it. And I only need to look at the swifts joy-riding the summer air above me to know that there is something far deeper and wider going on here – and that we’re all invited to be a part of it.

 

The Bright Matter of Heaven

God is not found
out there in a distant sky;
you don’t have to leave your body
to feel the divine.

Spirit lives in the soil,
it is bedded deep in our flesh;
the bright matter of heaven
is music
and wine
and baking bread
and making love;
it is reaching out your hand
to help another.

 

– Gideon Heugh

It’s here!

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Very excited to finally reveal the cover of my book!

When I first saw this, my first thought was, ‘that’s gorgeous’, and my second thought was, ‘I hope my poems do it justice!’ My designer (and great friend) Elaine Bentley completely surpassed all my expectations.

I couldn’t be more pleased with how the book has turned out – I think you’re going to love what’s in it. You can check out more details (and order your copy!) here.

Blessings,
Gideon