I offer something different today… I was distracted by a song during my morning prayer and whilst the reading was interesting and I did reflect on it, it was the song that has fed my soul.
On my sabbatical some time ago I reflected on what it is that makes us call places “holy” – why we expect to perceive God’s presence in some places rather than others. I won’t repeat all of that – you can scroll down my blog and find plenty of posts that explore that further…
Packaged with my Jesuit morning prayers came this song:
You, Lord, are in this place Your presence fills it Your presence is Peace. You, Lord, are in my heart Your presence fills it Your presence is Peace. You, Lord, are in my mind Your presence fills it Your presence is Peace. You, Lord, are in my life Your presence fills it Your presence is Peace.
The Lyrics are a prayer by Chief of all things Celtic – David Adam – and the setting was by someone called Keith Duke. I love simple prayers and simple songs – and this hits the button for me.
Every night in my Examen prayers a lovely gentle-sounding lady tells me to relax and remember that God is in this place and – more than that – however neglectful I have been of God through the day, God is pleased that I have come.
I find it makes a difference to my day to be reminded that God inhabits it – even places that are not magical mountain tops where everyone (for some reason) says they usually encounter God! Even THIS place… this sitting room, this desk with a computer on it, this coffee shop, this car park…
Which brings me to that photo.
In the late 13th century, the explorer Marco Polo travelled to the region that comprises modern-day Azerbaijan and reported seeing gushing oil geysers, some of which ignited and lit up the night sky. These days, the sky above the capital Baku is more likely to be illuminated by spotlights from stadiums or skyscrapers paid for by the country’s black gold.A year or so ago the city hosted the inaugural European Games, an Olympics-style multi-sport tournament for athletes from 50 countries, and Azerbaijan’s government spent billions on glittery decorations and lavish ceremonies. Yet rumours of a further devaluation of the country’s currency, dipping oil prices, and discontent over the Games’ ballooning costs exposed the vulnerability of a nation whose economy is one of the most oil-dependent in the world.A few kilometers north of Baku’s $640 million Olympic Stadium — which hosted a lavish opening ceremony that featured fireworks, Vladimir Putin, magic carpets, and Lady Gaga — a shepherd named Ibrahim gazed at his flock next to a clump of reeds growing improbably in the wastelands of the Balakhani oilfields.“I’m so proud,” he told VICE News. “Before the games, nobody knew where, or even what, is Azerbaijan, but now everybody will go back to their countries and tell their families about us.”It’s unlikely that any European Games spectators will make it to Balakhani, yet the coveted crude that fuels what was the world’s first oil industry was originally dredged from this exact spot. In 2013, while Europe was still bleakly trudging through recession, Azerbaijan sold an average of 880,000 barrels of oil per day, and was one of the world’s fastest-growing economies for several years.
The picture accompanies that news article with the headline: “Even God forgot this place”
I found it when I typed “God is even in this place” into Google Images… and all the results (except this one) were misty mountain tops and tranquil lakesides.
I want to affirm that! YES – even in this place. And you can be sure of it too – even in the place you are – physically and metaphorically. You could easily memorise this prayer and use it as a mantra – you could make up your own words up… “You, Lord are in this storm/room/park/etc…”
If you want a vague idea of how the song goes – I’ll have a go at singing it for you…