Potential…

Imago Dei,

Image of God,

in me?

The words do not trip lightly

from my tongue,

and do they describe

what is within?

Are there divine fingerprints

upon my heart, is there holy DNA

within my soul

calling me

beyond my imagined smallness

calling me to dare to give myself

to the full potential of being….

+

Imago Dei

in me,

in you,

in all…

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on speaking….

when I speak today

may my words be rooted in love,

may they come from a still place

where peace is found,

may they be laced with grace,

inspired by the desire

to communicate wisdom…

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when I speak today

may my words be healing words,

even if they are not received as such,

may they do a divine work

that shows they are not fully mine…

+

when I speak today

may I do so to respond to others,

not to prove myself right

or others wrong…

+

when I speak today

may it be because I have taken time to hear

what others are saying,

and not to over-rule or over-power…

+

when I speak today

may it be because I have been silent first….

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on vulnerability…

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI am pondering the power of vulnerability, the power of the words I am sorry, and the freedom found in the choice not to defend a stance but to be open enough to another or others, in a way that can make ongoing dialogue and relationship possible. This it seems to me is a huge challenge for us in our world today, and also in our personal and working lives. So many lines are being drawn to define who is in and who is out, who is right and who is wrong, who is acceptable and who is not.

I don’t like being wrong, but I often am, and when I am and someone calls attention to it my first reaction is often to supply excuses or worse blame others, and to defend myself against what feels like an attack. In many ways it is a natural response, it masks the vulnerability I feel with a barrier and my then defended self begins to construct a higher and more substantial barrier. I become brittle and that brittleness is actually weak and easily shattered, revealing the quivering mess within. Shame has a big part to play in this. Anyone familiar with Berne Browns work on Shame and vulnerability will know where I am going.

So I am beginning, to explore another way, a way of being that says to the one bringing the critique or criticism, let’s talk, I may have been wrong or unclear here, or it seems like we are looking at this picture from different standpoints… in short anything that will allow an openness and a dialogue that might prove to be helpful.

As I ponder the pattern of Christ, who emptied himself of all power and status, clinging to nothing, and simply being content to rest in the purposes and love of God, I see the pattern for another way. The strength that it takes to turn the other cheek, or to walk an extra mile, whilst both being subversive actions, are actions of strength through vulnerability. In my experience in most situations of misunderstanding there is often no right and wrong, but a miscommunication and the viewing of a particular issue from a differing view point, this can be even more problematic when one or the other party holds different facts, or interprets facts differently.

How then do I begin to live in an undefended way, well first I have to own the fact that I could well be wrong, and have the grace to say so, and yet have the courage to also not only listen to the story from the others point of view, but also to tell mine. To hold an open attitude that not only gives but receives forgiveness is essential, this is risky living, but I believe that it is essential if we are to learn and grow together and to make difficult relationships or situations places of possibility.

There are of course exceptions to this, and I am not expecting that this would be a way forward for cases of abuse or severe bullying, or cases where actual harm might be possible. There are always exceptions, but that does not mean for most of us most of the time that the risk is not worth taking.

Perhaps to risk vulnerability is to place ourselves in the flow of divine love, where many possibilities find their roots… perhaps to be vulnerable is to let love be real. I will finish with the words of a hymn of that title:

Let love be real, in giving and receiving, without the need to manage and to own;
a haven free from posing and pretending, where every weakness may be safely known.

Give me your hand, along the desert pathway,
give me your love wherever we may go:
as God loves us, so let us love each other,
with no demands, just open hands and space to grow.

Let love be real, not grasping or confining, that strange embrace that holds yet sets us free;
that helps us face the risk of truly living, and makes us brave to be what we might be.

Give me your strength when all my words are weakness,
give me your love in spite of all you know:
as God loves us, so let us love each other,
with no demands, just open hands and space to grow.

Let love be real, with no manipulation, no secret wish to harness or control;
let us accept each other’s incompleteness, and share the joy of learning to be whole.

Give me your hope through dreams and disappointments,
give me your trust when all my failings show:
as God loves us, so let us love each other,
with no demands, just open hands and space to grow.

Michael Forster
©Kevin Mayhew Ltd.

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Open; a prayer

In my humanity I strain, I struggle

for significance, place and purpose,

I need to be right, in the right,

and so I seek in you humility,

humility, and an open vulnerability

that is freely able to be wrong,

open to transformation,

open to grace,

open to possibilities beyond

my narrow confined thinking

open to wisdom,

open to spirit movement,

open to boundless possibilities

where all can share….

Loving One,

bearer of divine opportunities,

help me to be willing

to change,

to grow,

to become

to be…

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Speaking out…. ( pondering Christians at Pride)

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Dear Friends,

in many ways I don’t know who I am addressing this letter to, it is not a protest, nor is it a plea, in many ways it is a simple cry from the heart, a cry for love, and a cry that for once we put down our swords and our words ( they may be interchangeable), to take a deep breath and seek to hold one another in love.

Over the last few days my facebook feed has been filled with images of friends and others, many of the Christians, taking part in Pride events, whilst this warms my heart it also offers me a deep challenge, a challenge that longs for not only a radical change in our churches, but also in myself. I have many friends who identify as LGBTQIA+, those friends are precious to me, and what I am hearing from them over the last few months and years has stirred and challenged me. I am not critiquing those participating in Pride events, merely offering the challenge I feel I have been posed with.

First I repeat something I have said elsewhere, I apologise for the times that I have claimed to walk with and stand with my friends, and yet failed to stand for them when it has mattered most, and why, well simply because I have to acknowledge that their struggle for wholeness, healing and acceptance has not really been mine. It has not been mine, but it should have been because we are human! I believe that we share the fingerprint of the divine deep within and that that fingerprint is unique with in each of us, some are tall, some short, some skinny, others maybe not so much, our skins have a variety of pigments and colours and our eyes and fingerprints are utterly unique to each one as are our expressions of sexuality and gender.

Second I m hearing a deep weariness from those who are being asked yet again to fight on, from my own context within the British Methodist Church, but also from others who are just losing the will to keep baring their souls and claiming their humanity.

Third I want to do something about this, but in a healthy, helpful and healing way for all, and because of this I have to acknowledge that I am not going to be able to persuade everyone to agree with me, to affirm Trans-people, and to feel that same sex relationships are simply an expression of human love, my list could go on and on! That said I still have some people who swallow hard when the enquire how I became to be widowed and I tell them I am not, I am divorced, and that of course is minor in comparison! So what I want to do is to place a call for bearing with one another in love, I am not going to be able to persuade some people with my interpretation of the Biblical texts, not through my own human experience or friendship, not through the testimony of my brave and wonderful sisters and brothers. I also have to acknowledge that I don’t believe that the battle over who is right and who is wrong is ever productive, I differ from friends on my views of atonement, creation, and many other topics. This however is not about a topic, it is about precious people! People who have been hurt and harmed over and over, our sexuality however we express it, runs deep in the core of who we are.

Finally I want us to be honest, if we can provide a welcoming and affirming space we should say so, if we cannot then we should be brave enough to own that too, because to be tolerated is damaging and hurtful, for full human flourishing there needs to be radical openness and hospitality. Niceness, especially in church, and where masks are worn that say in a strange and false wat that all is well are not helpful at all, not for anyone, rich/ poor, gay/straight, etc.etc.

Those who know me know my views, but I will state them again anyway, I believe that all are made in God’s image, and that there is no sin in expressing our sexuality in affirming and consenting adult relationships. When I have had the not infrequent response form well meaning people about “what they do in bed”, my response has always been that I have no wish to know what you do in bed either, because I suspect we are all different! That said I remember my wonderful friend in a same sex relationship while struggling with a complex family life laughing out loud at such a statement saying that sex would be wonderful, but that they were just to exhausted for any such fun! Something many can relate to I am sure!

So let’s strive for love, for understanding, and for justice, let’s hear Jesus words to walk with him and perhaps to lay down our burdens of difference to seek a new way forward ( Matthew 11:28-30)

Let’s seek to see one another with the eyes of love.

Sally

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Into mystery….

How do I believe,  no,

how do I name you,

in these days when

Father, Son and Spirit seem inadequate

at best,

I find I can no longer contain you to

a binary, patriarchal world-view

where control, not freedom,

is the name of the game,

where diversity is at  tolerated

and managed….

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I need new words,

new ways to speak,

where  male and female,

slave and free

Jew and Greek,

Gay and Straight,

and so many more

are celebrated as in your image…

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I find I am called

beyond boundaries and barriers….

+

O that I could speak aloud

the language of lovers,

yet you call me deeper still,

beyond my stumbling attempts at definition,

into a silent knowing,

where I am fully known,

and I know fullness,

and all are fully known

in your embrace…

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How Long? ( a lament)

Eternal One,

hear our prayer,

hear our complaint,

receive our broken, bruised,

yet again wounded hearts,

our battered souls,

our rejected bodies,

hear our frustration,

our anger,

our pain,

and the tears

and the groans

that will not stop!

why are we denied,

why cast out,

dehumanised,

why must we wait, and wait,

and wait again,

how long?

how long

must we groan in this desert land

longing for water?

+

O come

 be the comfort in our grief,

be the strength in our song,

be the grit in our resolve,

and help us to be in you

that bearing our wounds

as Christ does,

we will rise….

+

how long?

how long?

how long?

we are so tired,

how long?

 

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With thanks to Ric Stott for permission to use this image of the Queer Pieta.

IPrints available here: http://www.sheffieldmethodist.org/product/rainbow-prints/

 

 

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