Speaking out…. we all can!!!

girl-looking-in-mirrorThe world we live in has always been a challenging place, it has areas of great and sometimes terrifying beauty, views and vistas that can literally take your breath away. It can be full of love and compassion, a place where people care for the earth, for creation and one another, but, I fear that more and more this is no longer the case. The rise in hate crime is marked, racism, sesism, homophobia, are rife, the creation of an underclass in this country (UK), by means of a punishing rather than an enabling benefits system is cruel and unjust.  Nationalism seems to be on the rise too, where once countries were looking to join in a quest for the common good, there is breakdown, just look at Brexit, and the fighting and wrangling there, exposing our selfishness and greed. Then there is more horror as we watch the Trump administration taking children from their parents and locking them in cages! There are no excuses or explanations that make this a good thing!!!

I, like many watch all of this from a distance, the news comes to me via my TV screen or Social Media, I drive to an appointment through beautiful scenery hearing of unspeakable horrors via the radio, a radio that I can easily tune out, a TV that I can switch off, and Social Media that I can ignore. I can easily get caught up in the grass that needs mowing, or a meal that needs making, or a meeting that needs preparation and fill my life with many things cushioning me from the horrible reality that many face, that many face EVERYDAY, EVERY MOMENT!

This morning, as I watch and think through all of this I am struck by how powerless I feel, and there is a temptation to say that there is nothing I can do, but the weight of it feels too great. The US/ Trump Administration are now saying that they are withdrawing from the UN Human Rights Council, to state that human rights abusers continue to serve on and be elected to the Human Rights Council whilst being happy to lock thousands of children in cages is surely a contradiction! If we cannot see that, and if those speaking those words cannot see that then the system we inhabit is surely badly broken!

This time last year I shared an anonymous quote of Facebook, it stated simply ” I screamed at God for the starving child, until I saw that the starving child was God screaming at me. ” It is time then to hear God again in the cries of the children, to see God in the 16 year old girl who is acting as mother to her frightened companions in the cage where she is being held, teaching them to care for one another. It is time to be with God in cries for justice, and to speak up and speak out even if we feel that our words are not heard. It is time to speak truth to power and to say NO! and to shout THIS MUST STOP, to support those who can make a difference and to keep doing so. Now is not the time to bury our heads in the sand and hope that this will pass. Now is not the time to submerge ourselves in a cocoon of busyness and things that numb us from the mirror of horror being held so clearly in front of our faces.

Learn how to write to the American Embassy, talk to your MP, don’t allow the horror to overwhelm you, talk to others, share your concerns, pray, weep, lament, but don’t look away, don’t simply hope that this is a blip, that horrors on a world-wide scale cannot be repeated for surely we have learned that lesson….

Where you can seek to do acts of kindness, mercy and justice, look for peace, and hope, value your neighbour, and the stranger in your midst, be the difference, seek the difference, look to live a life of love. Most of all don’t believe the lie that you cannot make a difference, you can, we all can! WE ALL CAN!

 

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liminal gift….

what gift is this,

this challenge,

this change,

calling me beyond the comfort

of what is,

into a space of questions,

doubts,

fears,

a space that demands much of me,

calling out potential

as yet unrealised,

refusing to grant me a container,

a shape,

a formula,

a strategy,

and asking me simply

to wait,

to be,

and not to strive….

and I am held here,

within this gift of time,

waiting,

watching, waiting…

masterpiece in progress

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Giving thanks; woven stories…

IMG-20161030-WA0003“My secret is that I need God—that I am sick and can no longer make it alone. I need God to help me give, because I no longer seem to be capable of giving; to help me be kind, as I no longer seem capable of kindness; to help me love, as I seem beyond being able to love.”- Douglas Coupland “Life After God”

Earlier this year, I sensed a new calling and dared to follow it, I am thankful for those who have talked and prayed and encouraged me in it. There have been times, and I suspect that this is true for all of us who call ourselves Christians, that I have thought of walking away from God and from the church, sometimes one and not the other, sometimes both!

So on Monday I am heading for Blackpool to the Imperial Hotel for the Methodist Church, Superintendents Conference I am still pinching myself a little that this is the case. As I begin to reflect I am aware that this story is not about me, it is actually about the people who first really shared the love of God with me, people who made me ask what it was that they had, what made their life different, whatever it was I wanted it.

Those people were not perfect people, they had faults and flaws just like I do, but they showed and shared a love that was beyond the ordinary, people who would take a stranger into their home, people who made sure that physical, mental and spiritual needs were met, people who cared and loved and went the extra mile.

There were others too, people who encouraged me to study, who believed in me when I didn’t believe in myself, who saw a potential within, people who stuck with me and challenged me when I felt like giving up. Still others walked with me through really hard times, again showing love care and compassion that came from a deeper place than their own reserves, leaning on God they allowed me to lean upon them.

Our stories are woven together, I hope that I have encouraged and helped others in the way that those mentioned above have helped me, but that is their story to tell not mine! My story and theirs are also woven together and together our stories are woven into the wonderful story of the God of love who invites us to participate in the life that s/he offers to us.

To participate in that life does not of course mean becoming an ordained minister, that is simply my calling, but it does require us to enter into it. We are loved and known by God even when we don’t know it, and for many that is a startling revelation, it was for me, I remember wanting to earn God’s approval ( I wouldn’t have dreamt of calling it love), to be acceptable, and a part of something that I felt, were I really known and seen, would be completely impossible.

I have talked to people, and prayed with people who have felt that they can never be good enough, and have turned away from faith because they cannot live up to the demands they have had placed upon them. Demands to live “the right way” and to say “the right things”. Such demand leads to a crushing criticism, and sadly it is rife in the church because we are always trying to figure out what is right and what is wrong, and who is in and who is out!

I thought I was out, but I was always in, and the truth is that nobody is out, all are chosen and loved, and this is the message that was lived out by those who have helped me and encouraged me, and dared to love me at my most unloveable. This is the calling for all who have discovered the love that holds them no matter how that might be lived out. It is about a love stronger than death, a love that came and showed itself to us in the person of Jesus, loving the unlovely, reaching out to those whom religion had excluded, and so challenging the political and religious rulers of his day that they crucified him. But love of course did not stop there, and through the power of love death was overcome and Jesus was raised from the dead inhabiting the fullness of the title Christ and making the resurrection a possibility for all of us.

When I choose God and choose love I choose resurrection, I am thankful today for those who have shown me the possibilities of that choosing, and for those who encourage me day by day to continue to press on, and hold me when I feel like giving up. I am grateful too that I have come to know a God of love and not a God of wrath, that I have moved from a place of fear to a place of possibility, and a different way of telling the gospel stories to the one I began with about 35 years ago. I will write more about that later, but today I am simply giving thanks.

 

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waiting for fire….

my mind is too full,

there is so much to do,

so much I could say,

could stand for,

could stand against,

so many causes,

so many issues,

so much…

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I am overwhelmed,

and become impotent

in my confusion

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so I will wait,

will wait for your stirring of my soul,

wait for the thing, maybe the one thing

that you are calling me to,

the thing that sparks and fires my heart

because I was created for this…

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I will wait,

will watch,

will wait….

then you and I together

will set the world on fire…

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Not moving swiftly on…. (reflecting on love)

the-colorful-ballet-dress-stefan-kuhnSet me as a seal upon your heart,

as a seal upon your arm;

for love is strong as death,

passion fierce as the grave.

Its flashes are flashes of fire,

the-colorful-ballet-dress-stefan-kuhna raging flame.

Many waters cannot quench love,

neither can floods drown it.

Song of Songs 8:6-7

Like many I was captivated and stirred by the passionate message preached, let’s face it folks he did preach, by Michael Curry at the Wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex on Saturday. It was a message that has caused quite a stir, like marmite it seems some loved it, others not so much! I fall firmly into the love it camp; I loved it because he spoke about love, and he spoke about Jesus, and he spoke about possibilities for a new way of living and being in response to that love.

I loved it because he spoke about the redemptive power of love, and the way that love calls us to action, for love is not a sentimental feeling, love is powerful beyond our wildest imagination. Quoting Martin Luther King, Curry began:

“We must discover the power of love,

the redemptive power of love.

And when we discover that,

we will be able to make of this old world a new world.

Love is the only way.”

Love is the only way, for love breaks down barriers and sees beyond differences, love even celebrates those differences by daring to see them as equally valid and important reflections of love’s self, and love of course originates in the divine, the creator and sustainer of the universe who cares enough about us to number the hairs upon our heads and collect our tears in a bottle.

We all need to be loved, and we all need to show and share love, studies have shown that love heals many things, that infants deprived of intimate touch suffer not only mentally but physically as a result. To reject someone, to tell them they are not worthy, to dismiss them because of their class, race, gender or sexuality is to tell them that they are not loved. Such actions hurt and harm and leave deep wounds, and the church that says that it bears and proclaims the name of love has been guilty of this over and over again.

Bishop Curry’s call to us is if anything a call to repentance, a call to turn again to love, and to allow love to enfold and fill us and give us a fresh vision for who we are as the people of God. As I think back over my Christian journey, and I am an adult convert who was not brought up in the church, I remember trying to get to grips with the notion that some were in and others out, it never did sit well with me, and thankfully as I matured and heard teaching from, and received the encouragement from those who dared to tear down barriers, I came to realise that nobody is beyond love, that all are included and all can know that they are included.

All can know that they are included, and that is where we come in, for knowing that we are loved demands that we respond with love, and that can be a challenge, because love will not be stopped, and we might find ourselves called to be more radically open to “the other” than we have dared to be before, to see the image of God in the unlikely and sometimes the unlovely, discovering a deep beauty there beyond our limited vision.

For years I thought that I had to earn love by doing and saying the right things, now I know that I simply need to be brave enough to receive it, and that there is always more to receive. To quote Bishop Curry again:

“This love, this is the way of Jesus. And it’s game changer.

Imagine our homes and families when this way of love is the way.

Imagine our neighborhoods and communities when love is the way.

Imagine our governments and countries when love is the way.

Imagine business and commerce when this love is the way.

Imagine our world when love is the way.

No child would go to bed hungry in such a world as that

Poverty would become history in such a world as that.

The earth would be as a sanctuary in such a world as that.

 

We would treat one another as children of God, regardless of differences.

We would learn how to lay our swords and shields down by the riverside to study war no more.

There would be a new heaven, a new earth, a new world. A new and beautiful human family.

The very dream of God”

The very dream of God, you and I are a part of that dream, called to play an active part in it. We cannot move swiftly on from this message, but must let love do its deep and life changing work, in us, in those we share love with, that the ripples of love reverberate throughout our families, our communities, our countries to embrace the whole world.

Nobody is excluded by love.

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Love

Today I saw God,

in the eyes of a boy

whose compassion overflowed,

accepting the tears of

an older man,

and love

for a moment

held us all …

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Today I heard love preached

fearlessly, boldly, truly,

I watched love exchanged,

barriers broken…

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Today I saw love

in vows shared,

in glances exchanged,

in a nation, (maybe nations)

moved

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In the ordinary,

in the extraordinary,

love is always real,

always true,

always deep…

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Only help me

to see,

and to celebrate…

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encounter…

what mystery is this

that calls me to

a deep encounter,

beckoning the unfurling

of my soul, wooing me,

gently, but with

a persistent passion

that will not be held back,

and I am awed to silence

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I need words beyond words

to describe

the wholeness that has

found me, and

right now it is enough

to be,

simply to be

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