A Prayer for Victims and Survivors

Alt Text: A Prayer Table containing pebbles, a small ceramic church, a wooden angel, a kintsugi mug and a wooden cross, all around a candle.

I wrote this prayer for the service today, 13th February, at The Ordinary Office, and in the current climate of increased awareness and discussion about violence against women, initmate & domestic violence cases, I wanted to share an adapted version here. Feel free to share and use, as is or adapted with credit here for context/so anyone may contact me should they need to. Thank you.

Loving God, in recognition that there are those for whom believing in their relationship over warnings, caution or reputation does not work
out well, we take a moment to reflect and pray.

For those who have entered into relationships or interactions in good faith, and have been abused in mind, body or spirit, we pray.

Send your Holy Spirit upon them now, and give them peace. May they know the sweet, gentle rest that comes only through being in your presence.

For those whose circumstances enabled them to make the decision to tell someone, report, share their pain and be heard, we thank you and ask for peace. We pray for justice, that in telling stories change will be brought and society will change through one brave person at a time.

For those whose circumstances meant this could not happen, we thank you that you walk by the side of each and every individual, loving them and offering your comfort, as you always will. That you will guide them towards healthy ways to process their trauma, and caring people to support
them as they do.

For those who have been able to tell someone or report in later times, we thank you and ask for resilience. Give them strength and perseverance when the road becomes tough, determination when dead ends and road bumps appear, and the wisdom to know in their own hearts where their own journey for resolution must take them. Walk by their side in each and every step towards healing, loving God.

May we strive to be a society that listens and hears. Where the silencing which hallmarks abuse can be immediately lifted through reporting. Where safeguarding processes work, and reporting processes bring justice. Where victims have confidence their privacy is respected and perpetrators know they will be appropriately held to account.

Above all, may we be known as people representing places of safety and care. Where we grapple with these complex issues with a heart of humility. Lead us, loving God, to always do the right thing. May the paths we walk and the words we speak encourage others to do the same. Help us listen, hear, learn, repent, do better, be better. As Jesus called us to.

Peace be with us all.

Amen

Making the Next Movement Forward

AltText: Two children balancing on a fallen tree, trying to work out how to move forward safely

We all have to keep moving forward in our journeys through life. For some, that is simple. We have routines, goals, drivers. We get up, follow the pre-ordained timetable of the day, and fall asleep at night knowing our work has been well done. Whatever that endeavour may be.

For others of us, moving forward through life is like wading through glue. We wake to the pain that made our sleep restless. Our rising takes time as we judge what sort of day it will be today, which mobility aids we may need, can we even rise at all? Can we accomplish anything in the capitalist sense of the word today, or is our defiant existance and continued belief that tomorrow may be a better one all the accomplishment we can muster – which, if it is, good for you! Never underestimate the revolutionary importance of valuing your own worth more than what you can actually do…

This time of post-Christmas, when the decorations are down, secular society has resumed business as usual and we are expected to just move forward into the new year of work, productivity and usefulness, is a dangerous time. Depression rises, anxiety increases. We have just journeyed towards this massive high, celebrated in whatever way best befits our situation, and then straight back to it we must go. Keep moving forward.

My husband encourages our family to observe the 12 days of Christmas, and having never done so growing up, I am rapidly becoming an advocate. Not to prolong the feasting. But to process the journey we have just undertaken. If we have truly grappled with the Christmas story, we have walked with a pregnant teenage revolutionary woman who calls for politial change. We have witnessed the subversion of societal norms. We have come face to face with the plight of a refugee family, and what it means to flee for your life in the face of a murderous regieme. I hope we have been challenged, shocked, sobered …

So amongst the celebrations and the joy, we also need time. Time to process. Time to understand. Time to gather our thoughts and the implications of these challenges in our everyday faith. Can we really be against welcoming migrants from across the channel when Jesus was once such a person?

These things are tricky. Life is tricky. Some of us have trickier places to move forward from than others. Some will glide forward while others will cling to where they are now in fear. The important thing is we intend to move and we keep trying to take that next step, hop, wheel, crawl or mental leap. With Jesus as our guide.

Amen

Peace be with you.

Just … Love!

For our first wedding anniversary, my husband made me five paper flowers and left them on my bedside table. I have them framed. He had bought special paper, stayed up late at night to practise when I was asleep and then made the final pieces for me. Dedication to an act of love.

How dedicated are we to the act of love? Or is it just an abstract concept we are good at talking about but not very good at facing? We can love our family, our chosen partners, but can we love our noisy neighbour, or the person whose theology clashes with ours?

People can act in ways which make it difficult for us to act in loving ways towards them. Ways which may trigger responses in us that are anything but loving. It can take a lot of hard work and dedication to love under those circumstances. It is, however, what we are called to do.

I’m still learning. But I’m going to keep on trying. Will you join me?

Peace be with you.

Joy as Resistance

I have never been one for cats, but my new rescue melts my heart!

How can we have joy when all around is despair? Is it even fair of us to pursue joy? Should we feel positive when there is so much pain around?

I’ve had my fair share of knocks and tough times these last two years. In the summer I caught Covid and am now one of thousands upon thousands left with Long Covid symptoms, fatigued and struggling to maintain any semblance of the life that was before. So how, pray tell, can I possibly be joy-ful?

When I felt that black dog of depression starting to loom, I made a choice. I would intentionally seek joy to try and keep it at bay. I became impulsive. I rescued a cat, because she was named after my favourite video game character and her story was so sad. I had teal streaks put in my hair, because if I was no longer to be client facing for a while, then I’d do something I wouldn’t do while I was. I started painting messy, textured, abstract works for the process of it. It all helped.

Joy to me became an act of resistance. Two fingers up at the world which wanted to grind me down. At politicians engineering weary populations so they could slide evil legislation through without challenge. At eatablishments making sure they are seen to be doing something while having no intention of doing anything meaningful at all. Joy became my rebellion. My resistance. My revolution.

Joy is a fruit of the Spirit. Perhaps instead of thinking of this in terms of happiness, we could think of this in terms of the ability to find good in the darkest of times, and to never ever give in to them?

Peace be with you

Peace in Restless Times

A few weeks ago, I found some unexpected space in my day. I grabbed a book, kicked off my shoes and sat in the garden with my toes in the grass. It was grounding. I was at peace.

It happens so rarely in the hectic life of a working mum of two with a part time ministry and a series of chronic conditions. When it does, it is such a treat. I need to make it happen more. A new year resolution perhaps? But also, intentionality about making peace in restless times is vital to our wellbeing.

There is so much anger, angst, vitriol and hatred out there. Social media brings it directly into our homes. The only way to combat this is to cultivate peace. Actively practice the peaceful response – if a response is needed at all! Demonstrate the disarming power of peace. It really does work!

Jesus is the Prince of Peace. If we follow his way, then we too should value peace. Whether that is holding a vigil to remember victims of violence against women, refusing to rise to provocation, or simply taking half an hour each day to be at one with God. All are steps towards a more peaceful world.

And we all need that!

Peace be with you.

Amen

Hope?

A light that shines in the darkness. That we hold at the centre of all our lives. Our endeavours. Our celebrations. Our times of desperate prayer in loss and sadness.

As we start the Advent season, we gather our thoughts around the light of the world to come, and the hope which he brings. We refuse to accept the status quo, to live in the darkness, and we look towards a changed future. One we must wait for, but know is to come.

Since the Covid-19 pandemic began disrupting lives two advents ago, we have grown used to waiting for what is to come. For better times ahead. For light to come in the darkness. Surely two years in, we should be living in the light? Our Christmastime should have come? Yet still we have longer to wait. How can we speak of hope?

Truth is, at times I don’t know. But what I do know is that to lose hope is a dangerous thing. To hold no hope is to be in a place of despair. The promise of Christmas is that hope will come. The gift of Advent is that it is ok to be still in the waiting. We don’t have to lock into repetitive news cycles and social media gloom. We can be intentional about reflection in the waiting. We can be prayerful in cultivating hope.

This first Advent Sunday, my prayer is that we may nurture hope, knowing that while the wait feels endless, Jesus is coming.

Amen

Peace be with you

Natural Reclamation?

An eyesore, or a sign of beauty?

We’ve recently moved house, and with that comes lots of trips to the local tip. Nearby is a drive through coffee shop, where we often stop and reward ourselves, especially as I am still on the Long Covid recovery path and even just driving there and back while my husband does the heavy lifting is exhausting for me. So we drive through, park up, sit and watch the world go by. In front of this old Church.

Many locals think it is horrible, and wish it could be flattened. I love sitting with my lemon tart and sweet milky tea, contemplating the sight in front of me. The plants weaving through the brick work. The different colours nature presents against the stark uniform stone. The scents drifting over, reminiscent of the incense which would have drifted down the aisles but so much purer, in their natural, organic, form.

Don’t get me wrong, we’ve done a bit of online research and the interior photographs available from ‘urban explorers’ are also beautiful. There is some amazing tilework in there, and the stained glass would have been stunning. But what always strikes me about this Church is that long after the people left, nature continues to speak. We’ve made it ugly with boards, fences and wire. But the natural reclamation only adds to the story of the worship held within the building. This is the planet continuing to grow, thrive, bloom, do its thing. What is that if it isn’t worship?

It also reminds me of the ongoing tussle within the church as an institution. The traditional, trying to stand firm while the cracks continue to widen. The organic, growing theologies, often seen as weeds but beautiful in their own right, just trying to thrive. Intrusive or complimentary? Harmful if not tended to, will pull the building down if neither is adapted to the other. It strikes me there is a powerful analogy there to explore. Natural reclamation within the Church?

And above it all, the cross stands proud still. A symbol of God’s enduring presence as everything continues below Them. Very striking.

I took this photograph on my last trip as I think there is still a lot of meditation and reflection on this to be had. You are welcome to share in this with me.

Peace be with you.

Prayers for Sunday 8th August 2021

Sometimes, in the dead of night, I wake and I think in the stillness. I think of the pain that wakes me, the noises that disturb me, the problems crowding my brain and preventing me from drifting back to sleep. I know I should be able to lay them at your feet, Jesus. But worry wraps around me like a weighted blanket, heavy yet somehow soothing, and I just can’t ever seem to let it go.

Be with me inside my cocoon of worries, God. Meet me where I am. Maybe all these prayers of release are just a step to far. Right here, right now, I am tired, sick, fractious. Before I can give it all to you, Yaweh, draw as close to me as the breath I take which echoes your name. Be with me in the midst of the here and now, with the peace of rest and the anxieties of life.

Then, wise Spirit, you decide the prayer. Lead me in what to ask for. You know my heartfelt needs better than even I do. Draw into my consciousness the next step towards healing and wholeness, so I may prayerfully co-create my journey forward with you.

Amen

Peace be with you

Prayers for Sunday 25th July 2021

What do we do, when peace is so fleeting, and conflict so rife around us?

Look to the sky. See the soft, rolling clouds and watch the gentle movement of the earth. On and on it turns, in a constant, life-giving path. Know it turns to give you the sunlight you need, and the darkness to rest. That is how much God loves you.

Look to the earth. See the green shoots, abundant in the country or persevering through the cracks in urban space. On and on they grow, in a constant, life giving effort. Know they grow to give you the air you need, and to clean the air in turn. That is how much God loves you.

Look to your heart. See the space within where the Spirit lives, rests and resides in you. On and on They work, in a constant, life giving endeavour. Know They are there, purifying, pruning, gently weaving the strings of your heart together with their own in a beautiful braid. That is how much God loves you.

Feel the Peace that comes with the knowledge and understanding that this is how much God loves you.

Amen

Peace be with you

Language Matters

When we focus on our language choices, we become intentional in our communication

‘That’s mental!’ ‘There are crazy discounts right now!’ ‘He’s just blind to the truth’ ‘You’re so lame’

If you really start to think about it, our language is absolutely rammed full of ableist terms and phrases. As a disability activist, I will hold my hands up and say I have got it wrong, publically and recently. On an almost daily basis I find myself about to say something, thinking about the root of what I was about to say, and choosing differently.

When I was little, it was common to use terms like spastic (and derivatives), mongol (and derivatives), retarded (and derivatives) to describe people, all coming from authentically used disability language. I have Music Therapy text books on my shelf which are still set texts and still use such terms. We would not use them now as mainstream language, we know they are offensive and in general society has actively chosen better. We choose to honour the wishes of the communities living with those disabilities, using person first language, or not, as guided. We choose to listen to the experiences of harm indicated to us by people living with such disabilities and adapt our behaviour accordingly.

So why is it so difficult to do the same with more mainstream disabilities? Mental health, visual impairment, hearing impairment? ‘I told you to put the washing on this morning, are you deaf?’ ‘Come on ref, are you blind?’ ‘That tune is mad man!’

The same context applies. We have clear voices telling us using such terms and phrases are problematic at best, harmful at worst. Yet as a collective there can be a sense of ownership, even entitlement, to use our language, metaphors or phrases from literature that comes above our acceptance of the impact these terms have.

Our use of one word or phrase may not cause clear harm in the moment. But consider the impact if we all challenged our own language habits, made new actively inclusive choices, listened when innocent responses were pointed out to be problemmatic, and learned from disability advocates instead of seeking to defend the status quo? I’m happy we no longer use ‘handicapped’, ‘invalid’ and ‘uneducable’. Let’s keep the movement forward.

Peace be with you