Being love…

I am writing this from the UK on a morning when some woke to the news of the latest terror attack in this country, this time in London, only a few days ago we were left reeling after the attack in Manchester,  which came not long after London experienced a previous incident. Around the world if we are attentive to the news, we will be aware that terror tactics, oppression, violence and war are daily occurrences,  we live in dangerous times….

But I have to pause there, and reflect that perhaps the propensity for humanity’s inhumanity to humanit is a recurring theme in our history, we seem to have an inbuilt need to be on the side of right, which by default demands that those we might describe as “other” must be wrong! In short we create enemies to defend ourselves, and we use causes;  religion, race, gender, politics, etc. ,  to define the other!

This morning as we worshipped, in a slightly subdued way , the feast of Pentecost, we were reminded by one young man to see, celebrate and be the good that we long for. He spoke of the way that following terror attacks so many people stepped in to help, offering everything from lifts home to cups of tea, and even places to stay. Those offering this help, he reminded us, weren’t asking questions of race, gender or religion, but simply responding to hate with love!

As I reflect upon the wisdom that he shared, I begin to wonder if we know deeply and instinctively that love is who we are. When I read true accounts of those who go to help refugees, of a burly fireman reduced to tears and singing to comfort himself as he lifts the dead body of an infant from the sea, or a nurse willing to risk her own life for the lives of others, I am challenged to ask if this is who we really are.

We live in a complex world of many demands, and I suspect that often we are so swept up in them, so pressed by the pressure to “get it right”, or to “be a success”, or simply to survive , that we forget who we are. Perhaps this, this question if true identity, not political, global, religious or gender based conundrums and questions, is what we must grapple with.

I wonder, if we knew ourselves uniquely loved, celebrated and accepted,  included because none are excluded, might we have the confidence to be love?  I wonder if this was the root of the forgiven, restored and empowered Peter on that amazing day when tongues of fire and an unexpected wind blew through the room as they gathered and into their expectant, wondering prayers. Peter who took the lead, gad had to confront the depths of himself, his cowardice and betrayal of the one who returned to forgive and restore him.

I wonder if many of us spend too much time defending ourselves, often by hiding from our deep truths that we are asleep to the love that could set us free. Perhaps we fill our lives with so much stuff and busyness that we don’t know who we really are… perhaps if we did we would not create in our hearts and minds those we call other, a brief reading of Acts 2, one of today’s readings, will remind us that the day the Spirit came,  the great Festival in Jerusalem,  the Feast of Weeks drew many nationalities to Jerusalem,  who heard the message of love in their own languages, a message they would take home, spreading the good news as they went.

This message of love, the story of the one who came to reveal God’s love to is remarkably still being told today, over 2000 years later, because love is powerful, more powerful than hate, strong enough even to overcome death with life!

Through this story, this truth, if we dare to encounter the depths of ourselves, allow ourselves to be broken open and restored as Peter, as Paul did, as many others through the centuries have, we will find ourselves loved, and being able to be love. Love does not stand on its rights,  foes nit demand correct behaviour but is open to include, embrace, receive even when it us rejected and rebuffed.

Love calls us beyond ourselves, our wants and desires and offers us deeper, broader and wider dreams, calls us to a new way, where divisive options are swept away, and all may find themselves included….

Christ on the cross bridged the gap, the Spirit blew away our defences, our choice is to take the open road , the road where gender, race, politics, and religion are offered new possibilities, a new way, a way of love, the question is, will we take it. The eye of the needle is humility, for we have not earned it, or won it, nor do we deserve it. Our rights, our demand to be right must be laid aside, if we choose the way of love…

For London, for Manchester, for Egypt, for Syria, for Palestine, for Israel, for Paris…. the list goes on, there is no other way….

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Praying “Your kingdom come….”


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In the light of the Global Prayer initiative Thy Kingdom Come I have been pondering what it means to pray those words, and how they challenge and inform my walk of discipleship.

So, what does it mean to pray for the kingdom of God to come? When I look into my head for images surrounding the word kingdom I perhaps reach for that childhood fairytale image of a castle, a fortification on a hill or surrounded by a moat a place of safety, but also a place of exclusion, the moat and the drawbridge, the battlements and ramparts designed to keep the unwanted and the outsider away! Stretching my imagination a bit further and I find myself engaging with national borders and images of empire, again the presence of boundaries and barriers mark the edges, there are those who belong and those who don’t.

I wonder if that is why so many of us struggle with kingdom language? Certainly as a feminist and having done some liberation theology around the unhelpfulness of the language I can make an argument for using different imagery, but it is there in the prayer that many of us can say without thinking or reference to the printed page. Your kingdom come! So how do we pray it with integrity and honesty and openness of heart and soul?

Certainly Jesus uses unlikely images of hidden treasure, something to be desired and searched for, yearned for even, images of growth, mustard seed faith full of possibilities, of yeast that permeates a whole batch of flour causing dough to rise. He speaks of receiving the kingdom as a little child, expectant, open and vulnerable. This kingdom it seems has limitless boundaryless possibilities for those who dare to enter it. ( See Matthew 13)

It reminds me of a wisdom tale of those who were searching for the water of life, looking to subdue it with magic, to conquer it with power, or to purchase it with riches, but the spring of the water of life turned out to be a tiny stream, and those who sought it needed to lay aside their magic cloak, suit of armour and bags of money in order that they could kneel and drink. Humility, as Pope Francis has pointed out is the only way for us to encounter great power, for without humility we do violence to ourselves and to others. We cannot enter the kingdom of God by force, we must receive it with humility, gentleness and respect.

To pray “Thy kingdom come”, is to put my preferences aside, and more it is to choose to willingly enter into another way of being, to allow God to drop a pebble of love into the pool of my life and to sense the ripples spreading out of my selfish centre to touch the world in prayer.

To pray “Thy kingdom come” is to seek the good of the whole, to see that mustard seed faith, or the work of yeast, or the pearl of great price is to be found in unlikely places and people, and not just to see it but to celebrate it.

To pray “Thy kingdom come” means dropping my boundaries and defences, to enter into life holding my brokenness and to walk with others who dare to do the same so that as we journey together we might journey towards true peace and healing and hold that out to others who may, as yet be unable, or even unwilling to begin that journey themselves, to acknowledge that we all hold but fragments of the whole, and we need one another no matter what our gender, sexuality, race or creed!

To pray “Thy kingdom come” is to acknowledge that I am accepted not because I am good, but because God is good ( Richard Rohr), and finding the miracle that here is the truth that sets me free from the burden of trying to live up to my own perfectionism, and allows me to live into my possibilities!

To pray “Thy kingdom come”, is to pray for limitless possibilities, for more than I could ever ask or imagine, to pray not for a work of God but to enter into it in such a way that our lives become an active prayer as we respond to the move of the Spirit within and around us….

To pray “Thy kingdom comes”, is to seek simplicity, to be open to change, to seek peace and mercy,  to love justice, and to walk confidently, yet humbly with the Divine, the one who holds the end from the beginning and knows us more intimately than we can begin to imagine….

To pray “Thy kingdom come” should make me an agent of the God flavours and God colours in this world….

To pray “Thy kingdom come” will ultimately affect how I live, my relationships with others, family, and friends, local and global, and those I might have once considered my enemies! ( It should even affect my politics)

 

Thy kingdom come Lord, on earth as it is in heaven….

capturing glory

 

 

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Living with tensions, looking for wholeness

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Sierra Exif JPEG

I am reflecting on a problem that has occurred in the midst of a group of complex relationships within which I am called to be involved. Reflecting that I am a part of the problem as well as the one looked to to “fix things”, and reluctant to dive in and do just that because right now an attempt at fixing would merely be covering over the cracks, and getting on with things. The problem with that approach is that cracks have a nasty habit of reappearing and getting worse.

I know this, I know it from my own life and I have seen this in action in the lives of others, the trouble is that we live in a society that demands a certain image, or so we are told. That image is portrayed for us on our TV screens, and in glossy magazines, pop up adverts on Facebook and other forms of social media, where our dis-ease with ourselves and our angst is fed and channeled to look for solutions before somewhere someone notices that we are broken.

Many years ago when my son Chris was about 2 1/2, he was in the Intensive Care Unit at The Royal Brompton Hospital in London, he was recovering very slowly from open heart surgery, he was born with a complex condition and this was merely one of the steps along the way towards making his life possible, at 32 he is still living with the condition and preparing for the next step! At this point however, Chris was unconscious due to a medically induced coma, the consultants had splinted his rib cage open to allow his heart room to recover, the swelling needed to go down before his chest could be closed. It was part of the healing process. That part of the process took several weeks, for me as his mum it felt like an eternity!

As a Christian a part of my belief is that somehow through the sacrifice of Jesus, all of my pain at that moment and in this moment was absorbed into the outstretched arms of the man on the cross, who held and holds it all for us. In those awful hours of pain and suffering he shows us the way to hold pain, suffering and sin ( all that separates us from divine love) until it can be transformed. Following his pattern I am called to hold the grief and pain and problems in my life until the time for resurrection is right, Jesus the scapegoat became Jesus the Saviour, simply because he refused to deny who he was, and if we dare to look on the one we have pierced we will find who we truly are revealed. Known, loved, precious and honoured.

In Christ I find myself to be beloved, I have always been beloved, but there have been many, many times when I have been unable to receive that, that inability to receive at times because of my own pain and also because of my blindness have meant that I projected that pain onto others, causing rifts and cracks in my soul and probably ion theirs. All this in an effort to look right and to be right before the God whose very pattern shows me that through Christ the way forward is not to deny pain, sin and anguish but to hold it in love until it is ready for resurrection. The trouble with that is that resurrection requires a death, and that can be the most tricky bit, it requires that I hold the pain, suffering and anguish until the time is right to let it go, letting go brings about a true transformation, because it requires a dying to my egocentric ways. This is the path of discipleship, the one I sense that I am called to through all of my relationships, even my relationship with myself, which might be the most complex of all!

Through the natural world around us in in all of our lives this cycle of death and resurrection is normal and right, to cover it up or deny it often leads to more pain, brokenness and sin, and certainly produces shallow, brittle and bitter people. Holding the tension requires grace, and places us into the normal and natural flow of love.

So today, as most days I live with tensions, and I can only hold them until the time is right, and when my mind and ego lead me to blaming and scapegoating others I pray that in Christ I will find the grace and strength to let that go so that:

My response is to get down on my knees before the Father, this magnificent Father who parcels out all heaven and earth. I ask him to strengthen you by his Spirit—not a brute strength but a glorious inner strength—that Christ will live in you as you open the door and invite him in. And I ask him that with both feet planted firmly on love, you’ll be able to take in with all followers of Jesus the extravagant dimensions of Christ’s love. Reach out and experience the breadth! Test its length! Plumb the depths! Rise to the heights! Live full lives, full in the fullness of God.

 God can do anything, you know—far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us, his Spirit deeply and gently within us.(Ephesians 3: 14-21)

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Grace, mercy, forgiveness and salvation…

P1010032.JPGOn Thursday evening this week, my purse and my Tablet were stolen from my bag which was on the back seat of my car, I hadn’t left it for long, but long enough ( mental note to self, always lock your car!). They were clever too, they didn’t take my bag so it wasn’t until the next morning that I noticed that anything was missing. I posted my news on facebook, and received much sympathy ( thank you).

On Saturday morning a conversation with the police, who have been wonderful, prompted another facebook follow up, the thieves may well have been caught on CCTV. A friend then asked me what I would do if it turned out that the thieves were not opportunists but people in genuine need, a family to feed and sanctioned, or waiting the long six weeks for a benefit payment to come through! She posed it as a “moral dilemma”, thankfully I knew already what my response should be, because it has been my response before, our justice system allows for restorative justice, and I have met before with another thief ( a phone this time), and heard his story, what transpired was actually rather lovely and it has certainly stayed with me. We met in his bedsit, and he apologised to me, and I was able to forgive him, from there we looked at other ways that he might be helped. What struck me there was the sheer power of forgiveness, and that power did not come from me, it flowed from a deeper source that recognised the value of the other. The thief and I were and are both valued, loved, chosen and flawed. If I get the chance again I would choose the same route, because I must choose people over possessions, and mercy becomes justice if offered in the true power of love. Being forgiven cannot be taken lightly, it reconnects us to our source, the love that I call God.

It is God’s grace that enabled me to act as I did because I have found my own restorative justice, his mercy, in my life, I have come to know myself as included, and if I ever feel excluded from that love then it is not God but me who has taken myself there. I believe that this is the message of the cross where in Jesus all of the pain and brokenness of the world was  drawn into the locus of that love and mercy and transformation became possible. In offering forgiveness to the thief I died to my right to retribution because I chose restoration, this I believe is the most powerful message, being a good Methodist I will quote Mr Wesley:

All need to be saved.
All may be saved.
All may know themselves saved.
All may be saved to the uttermost.”

Salvation is resurrection at work, changing us and making us new as we yield to it, the message is that I can be transformed completely and so can the thief! Certainly the one hanging next to Jesus on another cross recognised this and was assured of his place in paradise!

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Photos: 1. New Life. 2. Follow the flow ( mine)

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Walking…

I went walking today in the beautiful Peak District National Park, and it was lovely, I went at my own pace and chose my own route, picking my path carefully, at times I might have looked like I was going around in circles, but I am nursing an injured foot so now and then to get to where I wanted to be I retraced my footsteps until I found a way through. I suspect a film of it might be hilarious at points but I don’t care! In going walking with my poorly foot double strapped and my boots carefully laced I overcame a tendency to be self limiting and just went for it, I had been getting stressed due to various pressures that were piling up on me and simply needed to get out and an amble around the park would not do!

I went walking today, and climbing a bit, and I loved it, and that has got me thinking, I do have a tendency to be self limiting because I set myself silly targets, and because there are times when I think I need to arrive at my goals in the same way that others do. Today however I took a few paths less travelled and some odd looking double backs and detours, but I arrived, though more importantly I travelled, because if I had not made it to my goal ( the triangulation point) I don’t think I would have minded.

All of this brought me back to a conversation with a friend, who mentioned in relation to someone else that he could only carry out the task before him in his way, he had a particular way of working, and brought particular gifts to his calling and that was okay, in using them he was being the minister that he was called to be. Often I struggle to fit in, to do what is expected of me, and frankly to get it right and keep people happy, but I am not really called to do that and in the end it helps nobody. So maybe my desire to lead and minister should take on more of the pattern of my desire to climb today, picking a particular path which suited my abilities and allowed for my injury, sometimes doubling back when I realised I had gone the wrong way, and sometimes taking the less travelled path.

Today I walked and climbed and my goal was clear, in my spiritual life and with those I seek to lead the goal is to become like Christ, the path is discipleship, and that is full of twists and turns, rocks, bumps and detours, I wonder then if we might be kinder to ourselves and to one another if we chose to enjoy the journey, to use stopping places and to take in the view, looking back and forward but being in the present, owning our sore feet and being gentle with our tendency to limp….

Tomorrow I hope to take my whole self onto the path ahead, to look for signs of hope and moments of joy, and to set my eyes on the goal allowing myself to walk in my way, and to help others to walk in theirs….

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watching…

we spend a lot of time

at the tomb,

watching,

watching, waiting,

watching, praying,

watching hoping,

watching weeping,

we spend a lot of time

at the tomb…

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but now comes the call to enter,

this tomb, the womb of

transformation,

where new life begins

again,  again in

the dark

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we spend a lot of time at

the tomb watching,

but perhaps the only way to life

is to embrace death…

light to dark

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I will not be numbed ( seeking hope)

War, destruction, corruption, death…

injustice, poverty, hunger,

fear, exclusion, domination,

words fill my screen

day after day,

with the power to numb…

but I will not be numbed,

these words are people,

these words are the earth,

groaning and crying

for wholeness,

for healing,

these words are mothers

and fathers weeping,

these words are children homeless and hungry,

these words are wounds that rape the earth,

pollute the water,

scar the soil!

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I will not be numbed,

nor will I despair,

though I am close,

no I will speak out, and keep speaking,

I will act where I can,

and call others to action,

but I will not be numbed,

I will let my heart and soul bleed,

I will groan and call out for justice,

I will pray,

for these words are not the last word,

life flows deep, and deeper,

love will prevail,

wholeness and healing will come,

deep hope flows over deep time….

so I will not be numbed,

but will seek hope,

seek love, seek life….

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