July 8, 2020

In 1965 The Byrds released a song entitled ‘Turn! Turn! Turn!’, written almost a decade earlier by Pete Seeger, a song-writer known for his protest songs. In turn, he lifted his lyrics, almost word for word, from a short book in the Old Testament – Ecclesiastes. This book is squeezed between the better-known book of Proverbs and the somewhat raunchy ‘Song of Solomon’. They are known as ‘The Wisdom Books’. Traditionally all three books are claimed to be written by King Solomon who lived about 1000 years BC.

These words, from the first thirteen verses of Chapter 3 of Ecclesiastes, were read at a funeral I recently attended. As with all funerals taking place at this time, it was ‘socially distanced’. Nine of us were scattered around a crematorium chapel that normally would have accommodated over one hundred people. Although I knew the words from this passage, they rang more clearly than ever before as I sat alone. When Pete Seeger wrote his song he was mindful of the huge problems facing the world over 60 years ago. In a 2006 interview about the song he said, “This world has to stick together”. It was the only way he saw it as surviving. But as I heard the words they seemed to have been written for this very moment we are living through.

We cannot turn our backs on the opening line, “A time to be born, and a time to die”. This has for ever been the case but it is thrown into harsher perspective as we read the statistics on worldwide deaths from COVID-19. And many of those deaths could be seen as out of time. But in the middle of this rampant pandemic, new life is happening. Children are being born. So that takes us to Verse 4 – “ a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn and a time to dance”.

The fifth verse hit home with its immediacy – “A time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing”. It could have been a line from a 2020 Government paper advising us on limiting the spread of this virus. We are withholding from embracing so many people that we long to hug. In doing so we have come to realise just how frequently we did – without thinking. We truly have to “withhold” ourselves and look forward to when it is “a time to embrace” and we can enjoy that warmth of human contact.

Verse 7 admonishes that there is “a time to keep silence, and a time to speak”. Our all-pervasive media often magnifies the voices of those who speak words of hatred or anger. Twitter, at its worst, has become a platform for shouting but during the 2006 interview, Pete Seeger made the comment: “We have to lower our voice. How can we say what needs to be said …  without making ‘them’ so angry they will walk out?”

This centuries-old passage of poetry remains wisdom for our time. It acknowledges the faulty wisdom that leads to hate, war, killing, weeping and mourning but juxtaposes each of these against the more hopeful evidence of birth, healing, laughter, love and peace. To this Pete Seeger added the simple words of the chorus: “Turn! turn! turn!” It demonstrates a message of hope; that as the seasons turn, so our world will turn to better times. This time – this season – is outlined in the last book of the Bible. In Revelation the ‘time to weep’ is over when we are told: “God will wipe away every tear from their eyes … the former things are passed away.”[1]

Maggie Mitchell info@because.uk.com

Maggie is an editor at Because

[1] Revelation 21:4
Photo by Allef Vinicius on Unsplash

Support bubble

June 15, 2020

Who can you be a support bubble for?

This weekend saw the next stage of the lockdown-lift with one new measure called a ‘support bubble’ for those who live alone in England and Northern Ireland. One household can now be a ‘bubble’ for another adult who lives alone to come over and even stay the night.

There’s something cosy, even warm, about this phrase. It reminds me that we have an innate need for human contact – we don’t do well otherwise. And the necessity of meaningful contact with others has also been highlighted by leading psychologists warning of the risk to the mental health of school children from being separated from friends. After all, we are a relational species at our core.

Last month, after living alone for nearly four years, I decided to move in with a good mate of mine. The collective resources meant many things are easier – shared chores and chess games on tap are some of the perks! And you don’t have to go far to find ancient wisdom advocating support bubbles.

One man who in his day was world-famous for his wisdom (and also not short of a wife or two), insightfully said, “Two are better than one…if either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.”[1] The ancient king Solomon knew the comfort of connection.

So this morning I woke up realising I could be someone’s bubble of comfort. So I shot off a text to a friend who lives alone.

Why not take some time to think about being a support bubble for someone you know? Who needs the cosiness and warmth of your household? Who could do with some face-to-face time?

But maybe you are the adult who lives alone and as yet you have no bubble, is there any bubble out there for you?

I don’t know if you are religious or not, but I believe there’s another kind of support bubble that is always open for us to climb into. The UK government hinted at it last week when they opened churches for individuals to pray. I’ve found prayer is like a spiritual bubble, a bubble you can step into, stepping out of the craziness of the world – and things are a little crazy right now. Although prayer looks like a solitary act, prayer to me is about stepping into connection – there’s someone else in the bubble with you. Someone ready to listen.

If you want to know more about the God who’s listening, then reach out – I’d love to hear from you.

Richard Fowler info@because.uk.com

Richard is editorial assistant at Because

[1] The Bible, Ecclesiastes 4:9-13

Because Magazine February 2019

January 22, 2019

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Because Magazine February 2019

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