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New art drop-in sessions

New dream factory member Kate Christmas and resident artist Lou Davis are getting together once a week to make some art, and we thought – why keep all the fun to ourselves? So we’re opening up our artistic play sessions to all-comers!

The next one is Wednesday 18th Feb, 10am – 1pm at the Dream Factory, beneath the Well Cafe. The address is 25, Nicolson Square, Edinburgh EH8 9BX. Ask at reception or in the cafe and they’ll point the way to where we’re meeting.

For future dates, keep an eye on our Facebook page or email Lou through the contact form.

Making videos: sarah tells stories

Edinburgh Dream Factory has a brand new YouTube channel where we can post stories of what our dream factory projects are up to and travel around the UK bringing you inspirational stories from makers and performers and the things that inspire them.

Our first outing with the camera was to record a video for Sarah Agnew to promote her new crowdsourcing page on Patreon. This is a website that allows you to be a patron of the arts, and support people and projects you care about. Like Kickstarter, it asks for money in return for works of art, writing etc, but not for one project, this is an ongoing commitment. It will allow an artist to have a measure of independence and flexibility and go some way towards a guaranteed income. In return, you get special bits and bobs only for patrons.

Please subscribe to our channel and support Sarah!

One Word 365

Last year a few of us, rather than make new year resolutions, did #OneWord365. The idea is simple, choose a word that will help you in the coming year, something to focus on and help direct your decisions. I thought of quite a few and decided on ‘live’. It was a reminder to me to participate in life, not just observe. I did indeed manage to ‘live’ right through 2014, keeping breathing and blood pumping and all those vital processes. I also did more art, joined some new groups, made new friends, developed my work. I started doing some writing on Medium where I have challenged myself to be honest and open and not worry about the words I use. I made some art videos and have plans for making more videos this year, I got into drawing mandalas and discovered that was really inspiring to people. There’s still a long way to go and lots of the small decisions I took that might head me off in new directions are only just starting to open up possibilities for me, there will be lots more to do in the coming year(s) I hope.

So, what I need to do now is to find a word that may help me in 2015. I want to find a word that takes those opened up possibilities and helps me push towards doing something significant with them, something that keeps me going.

I also want to come out of 2015 understanding my faith better. I’m at a wobbly point, not that I’m doubting whether there’s a God or not, or anything like that, I have a very strong relationship with God but I think I’ve lost the vocabulary to talk about that relationship. The vocabulary still exists, but it means different things to me now that don’t reflect the beauty of the God I think I know. Lovely old words like salvation and repentance do not come to my mind alone, they come with the tang of musty bibles in a second-hand shop, the pressure of religious wars waged every day on Facebook groups and in youtube comments, they are the badly handwritten signs held up by red-faced street preachers and the manipulations of bad evangelists. Can I find a word that helps me delve through history and human experience, catch the essence of the love and freedom that was at the heart of those words and re-write them to mean something to me now? (and hopefully not just for me!)

Is there one word for all that?

Live. Remember? Focus? Explore? re-write? Discover? Learn? Examine? Hack? Push?

I like hack – have been thinking lots about hacking – in addition to messing around with code and arduino’s at our heat hack project, I’ve been hacking worship, hacking church, hacking structures. Currently I’m thinking about what hacking preaching would look like.

I also like push. It’s not the prettiest word but it might help me keep going with long-term projects, push my understanding and give me a bit of the confidence I need to take risks.

I think I’ll go with that.

Push.

(Also new for 2015, I’ve started doing something creative every day. Follow me on instagram or twitter to see! #createeveryday2015)

An Advent Diary

Here’s something I wrote for the Gathering on 3rd December. Hope you enjoy.

8th November

I always buy wrapping paper first, before I’ve even bought a gift.

It’s my signal that the year has turned and I am ready to acknowledge its end.

I dream.

My presents will be glorious in their pile beneath the tree.

Perfect.

Wreathed in ribbon and crowned with a metallic bow.

I never buy enough gift tags.

26th November

Should I make a Christmas cake this year?

My favourite winter treat. Sugar, brandy, marzipan, fruit. The majesty of a hidden cherry.

No.

We won’t be home to eat it. We don’t have guests to share it.

Yes the first slice will be amazing, but I will eat half of it and put on seven pounds.

Just. like. last. year.

10th December

First sighting of the Christmas Radio Times double edition.

I buy it every year. Even though all the information is online.

Taken home. lovingly scoured. Thrills noted.

TV set to record.

14th December

I am up a ladder. Dust in my hair.

Searching for a shoebox of baubles.

Every year I must add a new radiant something.

Glitter dusted paper stars. Handmade in India.

Tense.

We assemble our plastic tree. Branches labelled A-F to be inserted in their rightful places.

Unravel the lights. Let out a breath as they illumine.

Spin our shining fantasies of coloured glass.

Shit. I dropped one.

17th December

I am at a German market. I’ve had a sausage in a bun.

A belgian waffle drowned in nutella and three mugs of heavenly gluhwein.

No-one will go ice skating with me.

Again.

19th December

The Christmas cake is in the oven.

23rd December

I am wrapping presents. This is all there ever has been

and all there ever will be.

I run out of sellotape.

Should I go out and get more? Or make do?

Blue-tak it is.

24th December

No more work for over a week.

We are on our way.

Car packed tight with blue ikea bags of love.

Slade is on the radio and just this once, that’s ok.

I sing along.

29th December

This is it.

This is the time I remember.

The time I long for.

Christmas has passed in a flurry of family, children, toys.

I am sitting by the fire, book in my hand.

Christmas specials all watched out.

I am wearing new socks.

I glow.

Thank you.

Jesus.

This is Methodism …

Last sunday I was at Kirkcaldy Methodist Church. I’m what’s called a ‘local preacher’, which means I’m one of the people who take sunday services. It’s not every week, maybe once a month, and I’m based in Edinburgh but I could be going out to any of the churches in the Lothians or Fife. ‘Local’ is relative in this case.

I decided this time to let the congregation create the service. I just asked them questions, and wrote down their answers on a long roll of paper I’d set up. I love the unpredictability of it. During the prayers I asked people to name something they were thankful for and one guy said ‘death’, I’m still not sure if he was winding me up or being incredibly deep and refreshingly honest. Maybe it was both.

For the sermon, I set the scene and they wrote it for me. Here’s roughly what I said:

The bible reading we used (Romans 13:8-10) suggested that Christianity from its earliest days simplified what religion had become. There was now one thing that was important; love. Jesus said that these two were the most important commandments; Loving God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength and loving your neighbour as yourself. Everything else could be worked out from those two basic principles. Every so often the church needs a reformation to remember her important first principles. What are the key important and simple things about Methodism that will enable it to flourish into the future? What’s the one key thing for you that you value about Methodism.

I wrote down a summary of the answers that followed and made a chalkboard poster out of the best bits.

Here it is:

kirkcaldy_manifestoIf you’d like to print it out, click here for a 300dpi resolution A4 pdf of the same poster.

The Silver Thread

Yesterday I got into a deep conversation about the nature of faith. I realised that the only way I have of describing it is visually – almost poetically. As I tried to explain, this picture formed in my head and I was only able to describe it in the briefest of terms. Here’s an attempt at putting the whole thing into words.

Through sunken forests I walk, a dark envelope of green. As I walk I see a faint silver thread, a spider silk, twisting through branches, now lost beneath fallen leaves, then caught in column of sunlight. I begin to follow.

Mostly I follow clear paths. Easier to find than the elusive thread. At times, to follow I must leave well trodden ways and pursue the overgrown unknown. These diversions of inward and outward battle will scar me but the reward is an open clearing, soft grasses, wild flowers, seeds on the breeze, drinking in blue heaven and rest.

The thread plunges on, back into the dark but on to a new path. Now where there is choice, I know which path to take. It reassures and it leads me to an adventure I would have not otherwise known.

Would I have found my silver thread in another time, another place, if I was another being? Do the other paths through the forest have their own threads? I cannot say. Perhaps not a thread, but a wild bird call, river current or lavender mist.

I have a name for my thread. It holds a presence, when I find it, I recognise it. It is rooted to the whole earth and draws down the sky. It whispers – You are known. You are loved. Walk on and know others. Walk on and love others. It is the presence I know as Jesus.

Doodling in Tongues

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For the past year I’ve been doodling, not just any doodling, but taking time to deliberately include doodling as part of my prayer ritual. I’ll usually read a bible passage, really slowly, and read it a few times to let it sink in, then I’ll put pen to paper and draw whatever comes to mind – whether it’s something recognisable from the passage or not. I’ve found it to be an incredibly helpful process. And I’ve incorporated other things to meditate on too – the feeling of sunshine, a field full of flowers, an inspiring view, a piece of music, a friend.

I’m holding an exhibition of some of these doodles. It’s opening on 5th April 6-8pm and you’re all welcome. If you’re in the Edinburgh area at all over the next month or so it would be great if you could drop in. The exhibition will be on until the end of May, but if you come in April you may get chance to doodle with me. Check the times below for when I’ll be around and doodling on site!

Opening night, Saturday 5th April 6-8pm

Doodle meditation workshops, Mon 10-11am, Wed 5:30-6:30pm & Fri 12:30-1:30pm from April 7th – 30th.

Doodling through holy week:

  • Join the Gathering for creative prayer and worship @ 6:30pm on Wednesday 16th April –
  • Maundy Thursday (17th April) doodle reflections 6:30-7:30pm
  • Good Friday (18th April) doodle stations of the cross 6:00 – 7:00pm

More information from Lou Davis lou@edinburghdreams.com. See more of my doodles at doodlingintongues.org

Running over Rocks

fb_headerA couple of years ago I was privileged to meet Ian Adams, then the author of a lovely book, ‘Cave, Refectory, Road’ about bringing ancient monastic practices into contemporary life. It’s one that has resonated with me and I find echoes of its wisdom coming back to me as I wrestle with pressures of a rather strange work life. I hope, by following some simple spiritual practices, to be as centred as I found Ian to be. I’ve only just skimmed the surface of his latest work, ‘Running over Rocks’ and I’m looking forward to diving in to the heart of it and making the practices outlined part of my way of life.

My friend Sarah and I have invited Ian and Gail to Edinburgh to spend a day with us. They’ll be giving us a day to explore how we might shape lives rooted in spiritual practice, inspiring us to live with adventure, imagination and generosity through both good and tough times, and so to bring goodness to the world around us.

It’s a ticketed event with very small numbers, so book up early if you’d like to come. Your lunch and refreshments will be included on the day. It’s on Saturday 29th March and tickets are £28.  You can get them from https://runningoverrocks.eventbrite.co.uk

Covenant

A covenant is a vow or promise, made in all seriousness. I’m a part of the Methodist tradition and it’s common practice for us to get together once a year, either in January or September and to say this prayer together:

covenant

Every time you do it, it’s hard to say the words because you’re offering a difficult thing – the whole of your life – and trusting that you hear God well enough to follow him knowing that it could lead you into difficult, dark and dangerous places. It’s a risky prayer. But, the thing is, I love it. I love not knowing where this adventure of following God is going to lead me. So here’s to another year and another covenant prayer.

You can find the words on the Methodist Website.

One Word 365

In the last couple of weeks I’ve been surprised that, possibly for the first time ever, I’ve been inspired more by the new year than by Christmas. I love Christmas. I love good food and sparkly things and spending time with my family and singing carols and everything that goes with it, but for some reason, this year Christmas didn’t have quite the same charm. I really struggled to connect with the familiar stories of angels and shepherds. I felt a bit out of it.

Then came new year, and everything changed.

That may have had something to do with a last minute decision to see the Pet Shop Boys at the huge Hogmanay party that Edinburgh hosts every year, with incredible fireworks, a jovial crowd and no rain or snow!

Whatever it was, I’m really feeling new year!

Today, a friend pointed the way to a new year challenge – One Word 365. The idea is simple, instead of making a list of resolutions that you’ll probably never keep (see last year’s resolution to sew something new each month – I didn’t even manage January!), you choose one word to focus on for the coming year. I think that works well with the way I think anyway. I usually find that there’s a word or phrase or choice piece of wisdom that follows me for a few weeks or months and I find myself repeating it silently to myself. Examples from the past twelve months have been:

  • Exhilaration – a reminder to myself that what I really enjoy is moving fast and being on the edge of control, exemplified in my love of skiing and ice skating
  • Style matters – how things look is important and communicates so much. This matters whether you’re dressing yourself, creating a piece of art, decorating a room, designing a website or a church building or planning a party. I don’t always get it right but when I do there is a huge sense of peace and joy that come along with it.
  • Just be you – this is something I have to say to myself on a regular basis when I start worrying that I’m not as good as someone else. It’s a consequence of knowing and working with such brilliant colleagues!
  • Settle – If there’s a word that sums up 2013 it’s probably this one. It’s been a year for grinding my toes down deep into the cobbles of Edinburgh, settling into deep friendships, settling in a new permanent home, transforming the new into the familiar.

So … what word should I choose for 2014?

Here are some from the list that grabbed me:

curious … determined … dare … freedom … possibility … risk … adventure …

All good words. But I’m thinking they’re very active, and yes, I want to be active and take risks and go on adventures, but maybe I need something that has a bit more balance to it, because I also want to pray and paint and walk along the beach and appreciate blue skies and not feel guilty about not being productive all the time!

I think I’m settling on a word. It can encompass all those things, the adventure and the peace.

Live.

I think that’s my word for 2014. Live.

So … I aim to join in, take part, don’t be a spectator, say yes often and relish each moment. Be present. Don’t get hung up on the past or worry about the future. Live.

And I remember that life in all its richness is the ultimate prize of faith, it is what heaven really is but to gain it you need to give it away. And so I choose to live to give away my life, so that I may gain it. Whatever that might mean.

life_to_the_full

I’ve created this image with one of my photos. It would make very good background wallpaper for your computer (click the image for the high resolution version). Please credit me if you post it anywhere. And credit the bible for the words – can’t take credit for those!

As I often am at this time of year, I’m reminded of the words of the Methodist Covenant prayer. As with so many things in life it is both very beautiful and very hard. Those of us who choose to will be praying this prayer together at our Gathering this wednesday.

‘I am no longer my own but yours.
Put me to what you will,
rank me with whom you will;
put me to doing,
put me to suffering;
let me be employed for you,
or laid aside for you,
exalted for you,
or brought low for you;
let me be full,
let me be empty,
let me have all things,
let me have nothing:
I freely and wholeheartedly yield all things
to your pleasure and disposal.
And now, glorious and blessed God,
Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
you are mine and I am yours. So be it.
And the covenant now made on earth, let it be ratified in heaven.’

So have you got a word for 2014? Want to choose one with me?