Breaking Up is Hard to Do

Sinaed O’Connor. No Doubt. Whitney. Love ’em all. The tears and the raised glasses of wine as we sing hopelessly out of pitch along to those powerhouses, putting into words and music our feelings of utter despondency and grief.

Sugababes. Little Mix. Gloria. Raising the tempo. The high heels and the power dressing as we slap on the lipstick and curl our hair, determined we will feel good again and not let the sadness overwhelm.

Or whatever rituals you may have to get you over the pain of a messy breakup.

But breakups aren’t just in the form of romantic relationships. More attention is being drawn to what happens when friendships break up (as in Times magazine). Relationships breaking down between family members can be devastating with life long consequences.

Breakups between individuals and families and their church communities equally so.

What music do we weep our hearts out to in this circumstance? Lament albums don’t hit the top of the American Christian Album charts. But they are sorely needed. Which Bible verses can we turn to when many of them sting now, holding years of biased interpretations and wrongful wielding to exclude those Jesus never excluded in their wake. Do not despair for God is with you, if you can find Them through all the hoops and hurdles people have laid in your path.

To move forward you have to leave the break up behind, anyone who has been there will tell you that. But the church spire looms tall, your social network is still full of loved ones who still love what you have lost, maybe even your closest amores, your spouse.

That’s tough. That’s also ok.

God has it. God hasn’t broken up from anyone. God was there, but God is also here. Now. In this moment, in this blog, in my heart and in yours, reader. In the space around and within, and despite whatever barriers and blockages we may feel around us God is closer than we will ever know.

So follow ‘Nothing Compares’ with ‘I will Survive. Take Psalm 6 and follow it with Psalm 100. Grieve what is behind but look at what is ahead. There is so much out there, so many amazing people, Churches and communities that breaking up gives such opportunity to explore and discern what God has next. To rest, to be, to heal, and to live abundantly.

I’m working in getting myself onto that dance floor, see you there?

Peace be with you.

Hildegard and I

There is nothing like a nice fresh book, the smell, the feel, the crispness as you write and crease the corners to mark the best bits … don’t hate me if you disgree!!!

Today is the Feast Day of St Hildegard, I picked up from Twitter this morning. I decided to make time to delve into my copy of her Scivias I had bought myself with my birthday spends, a nice reason to do so. Boy am I glad I did.

So this woman was in a tough spot in her life, and felt compelled by the Spirit to write as an outlet and a way to speak truth to power.

This woman was a marginalised minority, seeking to find ways to improve the system for herself and others, finding the courage to do so through the written word.

This woman was a creative, an innovative musician, writing in ways which did not strictly adhere to the conventions of the time but bore oh so beautiful results.

This woman lived with chronic illness, perhaps even a form of migraine, that certainly impacted how she interacted with the world and likely how the world interacted with her.

This woman had cishet white men telling her what to do, and what she couldn’t do, all around her, yet she found ways around them to follow God’s call anyway.

I like this woman. I like the sound of her. I like the sound of thousands like her I see every day, throughout history and in this moment here, right now. And maybe, on my good days, when I’m confident enough to own it, in my mirror.

Peace be with you.

A Prayer for Sunday 13th September 2020

Joy. Often fleeting. Often desired. Often missed.

Spirit of Joy, stir in our hearts today and always. Lead us to moments of Joy throughout our daily experience, and highlight them as they appear. Raise our eyes from the dimness and the tears, the frustrations and the fear, to the moments of clarity and the seconds of silence where we can truly experience the knowing of Joy. The knowing of You.

Spirit of Joy, dance with us today and always. Lead us to move with the sense of the sounds around us, or hold in stillness the sense of grace. Lift our souls from the heaviness of worldy experience and into the lightness of the divine, that in us the two may find a place to meet and balance.

Spirit of Joy, come to us today and always. Encourage us that You are ours to have whenever we tune into You. You are constant, ever present, available and calling our names. Even in the midst of darkness, if night, the sun still shines.

Joy still sings.

Amen

But Do You Believe?

I still can’t believe I’ve been this close to a dolphin in the wild. Maybe I should get better at believing in what a pray for …

It’s been a big week here. My eldest child started High School. With 6 months of lockdown, limited transition, ASC and change being a big trigger, I had been rather dreading it! We had put lots of plans in place, worked mega hard to prepare him, and had lots of support from both schools involved. And little man was obviously ready.

Yet, when he came home after his first day without a hitch, I was in shock. I could not believe it.

That morning I had spent time in the psalms before waking him, to settle my own soul. I had prayed with him and drawn a cross on his hand with my finger, a symbol of God to take with him and of my connection to him throughout the day. Then, I had stepped back and let him get on with his morning independently, watching him walk off to school in a way he’s never wanted to do before. Unsupported. In his own right. Amazing. Terrifying.

In God’s care.

My Grandfather called that evening. An amazing man of God, our Church’s Pastor growing up, deeply wise and though a man of few words, boy are they gems when he speaks them. After listening to me gush about how well things had gone and how I couldn’t believe it, he quietly and gently challenged me…

“We have to believe these things will happen if we pray for them.”

It stopped me in my tracks. How often do I pray for things and then declare I don’t believe it? All the time. Every year we visit my sister in law, go on the boat trips to the marine reserve and I pray to see dolphins, not expecting to – then they come and play! Every time I lay a difficult situation at God’s feet before I enter it and it comes out much better than I anticipated, or at least with a clear way forward. Every time I get a clear sense of God’s call, or a song, feel drawn to a verse or know I’ve been used to support a sibling in Christ that day.

Psalm 5:3 encourages us “In the morning, LORD, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait expectantly.” If we expect, then we must believe, and thank, and praise. when our expectations are met, and very often exceeded! Don’t we have an amazing God!

Peace be with you.

P.S. As I wrote this, my beloved Grandfather phoned me! Not once did I tell him I couldn’t believe the incredible answers to prayer we celebrated. Thank you Granda, I’m learning …

Zoomin’ to the Lord

Yesterday I experienced my first ‘Zoom’ church service. It was a 15 year anniversary celebration of a Fresh Expression church my husband had been involved in for some years. Many of the friendships seeded in that church are still important to us now so, despite me hating zoom, being half asleep from a three hour drive and really struggling with the thought of anything to do with formal Anglicanism right now, I really, really wanted to be there. And I’m so, so pleased I was.

By the time we got to the Kyrie, sung over us while we all sang on mute to avoid the echos and time delays, I was in tears. My heart was full with the nourishment being poured into it, like a parched person pouring a jug of water down their throats as the water falls in streams down either side of their mouth, it is so bountiful in that moment after such drought. Yet there was also a sense of such heaviness. I could have had this all along. Partly my responsibility, for being a zoomophobe. Partly my loyalty to a church not offering this way of connecting. This was a one off but the Vicar leading it extended a warm invitation to me to his regular offering. One to pray over.

The scripture we discussed was Matthew 18: 15-20, discussing conflict in church. Two things really drew me in. One, the fact we are told to treat people we can’t resolve conflict with as gentiles and tax collectors – on face value as outcasts but considering Jesus calls us to love the marginalised then surely that means we must love them anyway? And two, the reminder that when two or three are gathered, God is there, felt very poignant.

For gathering means different things now.

When someone tweets a cry for prayer and I see six tweets back, I smile. That is two or three gathering.

When someone livestreams a church service and I see the comments scrolling up the side of the screen, I praise. That is two or three gathering.

When a group of people sit at an allocated time, and read a transcript, watch a service, sit in contemplation or turn their attention to God intentionally all at the same time, that is gathering too. I admit I find that harder to understand or connect with. But joyfully, the universe is not just designed for me!!

So I’m gonna try zoomin’ to God again, I’m sure. I’m going to pray into the glimmer of hope I may have a chance to access liturgical community again one day. But one thing is for sure, I’m never going to forget my first time and I will be forever thankful for the blessing it has been.

Peace be with you.

Prayers for Sunday 6th September 2020

God, we thank you for you for this time of Autumn, as September brings a new cycle of terms, seasons and courses.

A time to pause.

A time to reflect.

A time to consider what truly matters.

A time to tune in to what is really driving us.

A time to gather our strength for the winter ahead.

A time for fresh starts, leaving behind what is not good for us and embracing what is.

A time to centre ourselves on You. Your Love. Your Peace.

Draw us closer to you God. Call us closer every day. May we know this Autumn that you are the focus and anything drawing us away from that must fall away like leaves, to make way for the new shoots you promise will grow.

Oh God, for I can’t wait to see the springtime of growth after this particular autumn.

Amen

Peace be with you

Unity but at What Cost?

Togetherness does not have to mean the same, but we also need to consider carefully where the compromises lie…

Another week, another dispute on church twitter, this time about an advert for a position for a leader in a religious organisation stating a genuine occupational requirement for the occupant to be a man. Why? Because there will be people under the remit of the role who cannot take leadership from a woman because of their religious beliefs. More on that later …

I have seen a number of calls this week for unity. To pull together and present a united front. To stop disagreeing and show the world God’s love without qualification. What a beautiful concept.

My issue is this. When some of my fellow Christians present the loving, inclusive, all embracing God I know to the world as one of homophobia, white supremacy and sexism, I cannot stand in unity with them. When Donald Trump stands up and tells the world he stands up for the truths of the Bible, I cannot stand alongside him in unity. When institutional Churches stand with the status quo for fear of upsetting people instead of embracing change which would save so very many more, I cannot stand alongside them in unity.

Unity doesn’t just happen. It is either enforced through an authoritatian system or it is embraced through a collaborative, ongoing, challenging, probably neverending process. I will gladly stand in unity with a church community committed to wrestling with the knotty issues in grace and love with the same intent and intensity that Jacob wrestled with God. We have to do that wrestling openly too, and in many ways that are accesible to all stakeholders; I’ve been told social media is not the place, but I embrace the transparency. At least if we can show the wrestling is taking place we are demonstrating not everyone thinks God hates gays. I have learned so much through open wrestling on social media and I thank God for it.

But I won’t stand in unity with any organisation who eschews collaboration, who relies on layers of beurocracy and say so from a monarchical figure, who expects compliance, whatever personal beliefs are, even when voices within it are crying out, intellectually arguing, presenting compelling cases for why the status quo is damaging. Harmful. Wrong. And there are many.

So when advertising a position which must be for a man because some people within the organisation have interpreted the Bible as such, despite the majority view now discrediting that interpretation and human rights legislation stating that is not acceptable, I cannot stand in unity with that either.

Yes, how to move forward with these issues is something we have to wrestle with. Yes, it’s hard. Yes, too often it becomes adversarial rather than collaborative and that, please God, is the bit we need help with the most. Maybe it’s not where we discuss, but how, we must focus on the most?

The church and related/representative organisations should be leading society in compassion, social justice and championing human rights. Not lagging behind for fear of reprisals. Jesus didn’t come to keep the scales balanced, but to tip them in favour of the marginalised.

It is them I stand in unity with.

Peace be with you.

A Prayer for Sunday 30th August 2020

The Spirit is moving. Let us act.

God, a new time is coming. Lockdowns are lifting, schools and buildings are reopening, steps toward life as we used to know it continue. Tentatively. Cautiously. With trepidation.

The Spirit is moving. Let us act.

God, bring us together, give us the strength to support eachother and meet eachother’s needs. As we hold our own needs before you, may we trust you hear and will meet them, as we lay ourselves open for you to guide us to meet the needs of others.

The Spirit is moving. Let us act.

God, we pray and we act. Give is wisdom to know when the time is right for each. Open the ears of our heart to you. May we always know Your call on our lives. when that is to move and to serve, and even more so when that call is to simply be, here, with You.

Amen

Peace be with you

So Many Levels of Grief

Yeah, we always share the happy photos. This is not a happy one, and you know what, that’s ok too.

The blank stare. The puffy eyes. The pile of blankets and the listlessness. Grief and sadness are setting up camp for a while.

We’ve all lost so much through Covid-19. People, opportunities, livelihoods. Cracks have widened and things we could cope with before we just can’t now.

Loss underpins everything. We should be doing this. In another life we would have been doing that. Some day we may get to be that person again.

Blessed are those who mourn for they will be comforted – Matthew 5:4

Even if it takes time

Even if we’re all too tired and our efforts are less they could be

Even if we’re just too sad to recognise or receive it

God has it. God has us.

This week I made the decision for the benefit of my own mental health that I could no longer balance trying to hold a place in an organised church community with deeply held convictions that conflict with my own, against being an ally and advocate for those harmed by convictions such as those. I could no longer reconcile the tensions I lived with daily without it becoming toxic to me and others. More loss. More grief.

I await the comfort. The peace. Right now, it’s just sadness. But that’s ok. Because I have faith God’s promises are true and I know this is but another step on our journey together.

Promising new paths are already in sight ahead. My story isn’t over, far from it. I have no frame of reference anymore for what it will look like. But I will always recall the famous words of The Tapestry Poem, a favourite of Corrie Ten Boom, and know that while I may look up and see a mess, God looks down at Their art work and sees a thing of beauty. However tearful and snotty it may be at the time!

Peace be with you.

Mind, Body and Spirit

Who knew a pot of cream could bring a spiritual awakening?!

I have body issues. I spent a lot of time in my 20s with bad theology, learning that spirit was good, body was bad. I am now spending time in my 30s with more gracious theology and the learning of more holistic approaches to therapy training behind me, that without a balance of mind, body and spirit, we can never be in a true state of well-being, or have abundant life.

When it comes to things for me, I rarely treat myself just for the sake of it. I don’t often wear make up or scents. I buy clothes but mainly in the search for items that will make me feel less frumpy. The beauty industry is a multi-million dollar money pit I rarely throw my pennies into. But recently, a friend invited me to support her in a beauty business venture, and (long story short) I ended up with a rather large pot of very delicate, very smooth, lightly scented body cream, witha body I never put cream on to use it with…

It sat there, on my bedside table, for days. Even that was progress from shoving it in a drawer, right? I mean, I’m a busy Mam, I don’t have time to use it, but it looks nice. Maybe if it’s there, the opportunity may present itself?!

Indeed, one day, it did. One day, I found had a rare leisurely morning to myself where I could take a little extra time than usual in my routine, and the pot of exquisite, fluffy cream was staring at me. So I opened it and took out a little. I started with my neck, and just lightly trailed a little down the side, not really knowing what to do…

Until I caught my own eye in the mirror (and fought back a cringe!) and said out loud, out of the blue ‘You are worth this’! Where did that come from? How odd. However, it came from somewhere. So I went with it. I started from the top, worked my way to the tips of my toes, and prayed affirmations over my body as I went. Mind. Body. Spirit. Wow.

I felt spaced out all day! Something had shifted in me. I had faced something deep within me and for once had given myself a little compassion. It felt good. I vowed I’d do it every morning!

Of course I didn’t. I won’t. But I’ll do it every so often, when I can. My mind is super well fed. My spirit is a constant focus. But unless I start to care for my body too, it won’t ever balance, and it won’t ever be as God planned.

Peace be with you.