we are all cracked …

crackvase_litex3I have now been blogging for 10 years. I’ve checked and I started (again) on May 12 2004 after a few failed attempts … but SHP seems to have kept going … sometimes regularly, sometimes not, but always kept going with something.

I started this as a reflective exercise … and in the main that is what SHP still is for me … a tool for reflection and to invite reflection / comment from others. Engaging with other people and hearing of others experiences around ‘stuff’ that matters to me is and continues to be an energising and often challenging experience.  An unexpected and incredibly positive sideline is that the presence of this blog has enabled me to find new friends, some of whom I have met, and some who are encouraging and thought provoking from a distance … some even on different sides of oceans!

One such friend who I nearly met while in Yorkshire on holiday is Graham, a Methodist minister, who blogs over at Digging a Lot. His posts regularly inspire me … and today his words cause me to simply acknowledge with a slightly tearful nod of agreement. Before saying more, as Graham says, first you need to listen to this song … or at least the opening couple of minutes if Leonard Cohen is not your style ..

I seem to hang out, get on, and prefer to be with those who know they are cracked and broken. I am totally at home in one place I visit simply because the people there know they are broken. They don’t hide it, they don’t pretend but simply acknowledge it as being part of who they are. Interestingly many of these people would say that having me listening helps them personally …. but being with these broken cracked people has caused me to admit increasingly that I, too, am cracked and broken. In this particular setting, and with certain particular people that I hang out with there, this also has not been hidden and has been totally accepted. I believe honesty is kind of necessary for community to grow …

It is as if we journey together with our cracks in a brokenness that we understand, acknowledge, accept … but also hope that as we travel and encounter God in a new way .. that some form of healing or restoration will occur. BUT … and this is a BIG but … I am not sure I want my cracks to disappear completely, nor am I sure I wish to be totally restored … and maybe I don’t even believe total restoration can happen this side of eternity …because if I don’t have cracks and breaks … how do people see God shining through … and how can I ‘let the light in’? If I am restored and fixed how can I possibly relate meaningfully to broken people in a fucked up world?

To make a difference in a broken world …. I wonder …. do you first need to be broken … not broken and restored … but simply broken … aware of that brokenness … embracing it as part of life … and believing it will change … but probably not fully until Christ returns … 

A few years ago I loved this poster from Christian Aid. ‘I believe in Life before Death’ is still a mantra I hold close to in my understanding of Christianity. I don’t think ‘being broken’ means we are not living. Actually … I wonder if admitting to brokenness … and so embracing our vulnerability actually means we are then able to live a fuller life (John 10:10 and all that jazz!)

The thing about brokenness, I guess, is the healthy gritty reality that accompanies it … so thank you Graham for inspiring me today …. and I shamelessly end with your words …

often I have been in tears
by the light
coming from people who say
‘I am not much
nothing special’

in my  limited experience … it is those who really are
the special, valuable, precious ones

Chin up!

Chin up!I saw this tweet last week and sighed with despair :

Talking about our problems is our greatest addiction. Break the habit. Talk about your joys.

I was going to write something about it … but then saw that Graham had written something great already …. so why write when I can just point to a great blog post that is already out there.

I’ve also unashamedly taken the pic from Graham’s blog too …. for me it kind of sums up the crap that some of us say when really we should just hush ourselves and stand alongside and … well just be there …. as well as be honest ….

Go read ….

an abundant life…?

lifeThe gathering got together on Sunday and looked at John 10:10 and the whole thing of ‘abundant life’. We were drawn at some stage to the picture … feeling that there is something in the image that speaks of ‘abundant life’ that you cannot verbalise … I guess we came to an agreement that there is a lot when talking ‘abundant life’ about our attitude to life.

We heard these words from Tom Wright before we entered a time of discussion. He spoke about abundance not meaning lots of ‘stuff’ but rather about being the ‘true and unique person we are meant to be which leads to a sense of yes … this is what I was out here to do!’

So abundant life …. maybe that is something about discovering, or re-discovering, who we are and what inspires us. When we discover that which really inspires and excites us and live in the joy of that … then maybe then we are living abundantly. This isn’t about ‘calling’ as such, which can be quite power heavy language, but this is about discovering what brings us alive.

For me … that would be being with people outside the church who love the pub and talk ‘stuff’ with me, or people I engage with at the Boot fair or at Mind Body Spirit fairs …. these are activities that seem to bring me alive. I know this because a six hour ‘duty’ can just flash by unnoticed.

I can’t find the quote … but sometime I have used some persons words which say something like ‘what the world needs is Christians who love their life’ …. because then people start to believe that what Christians have makes a real difference.

So …. an abundant life …. living the life we were created to live …. I can live with that!


real protection

data_protection_singapore1I have really found the Richard Rohr thought series very powerful and awakening this week. The series has been looking at the ‘loyal soldier’ within us, the person who is a bit like the older brother in the story of the prodigal son. The part part of our character that is bound by rules, that tells us how we should be and act and what we should believe … the part of our character that chooses to avoid taking on board that Christianity is a mystical matter because then it allows it to restrict it more comfortably to a moral, right and wrong, matter. That’s a lot easier to deal with and allows us to control who is in or out and gives us control over stuff we don’t really know how to control. But … while it’s ‘easy’ to try and live through rules that ‘protect’ us … faith with Christ means we do this by letting go and allowing him the space …

Today’s thought starts …

Early-stage morality seems to be determined by what some call the world of karma or some kind of equalization between debt and punishment, merit and reward. It seeks to create some “justice” between output and input, so the world can make sense to our small self. The Loyal Soldier voices that developed in our early childhood said, “You get what you deserve. You don’t deserve anything more than what you’ve earned and are therefore worthy of receiving.” This simple worldview likes “bad” people to be punished and “good” people to be rewarded.

go read it all here.


a post to remind us that we are marvellous!

main_shareLast night at RFS I watched Saving Mr Banks.

In the discussion afterwards I describe it as ‘a beautifully crafted film with some amazing acting which realistically showed a lot of emotion and pain as people struggled to let go of stuff from their past’

This was quite an emotional film and many afterwards admitting to welling up with tears at various places (of course … being a man i did NOT!) as the film prompted past memories that had not been fully dealt with. Seems this is an issue for many of us! The film shows very powerfully how past ‘stuff’ can influence our normal everyday backyard life.

This past year, probably 18 months, I have been coming up against stuff of my past. Some of this stuff has been painful but I have encountered it, immersed myself in it, stared it face on, and stepped out of it. I’d like to say I’ve come out better, but I am not sure I am at that space yet.  I think I’m close. I’m where I should be and that’s positive.

Sometimes I have laughed at myself as I’ve gone down those mental paths of the past where I have had to listen to those voices that told me I am worthless and good for nothing. I’ve laughed because, actually, I have no respect for those people or voices or my past and know they talk crap. I know their words are a lie. I know those words have no authority.

Other times I have frozen in fear, and found myself weeping, as I guess I start to consider some of this crap may … just may … be true. Spoken words are powerful, and no matter how resilient you are, they can have a massive effect on your self thoughts. When I worked for the Behaviour Support Service we knew that the children we worked with needed to hear a ratio of 8 positive comments  to every negative comment.

That sounds a lot … but why should it be? … why is that not a reality in our society? In a well informed ‘civilised’ society like ours … why is the norm negativity … when it could be so easily the complete opposite? I mean …. how difficult is it to be nice to each other, to tell each other how amazing and wonderful we are.

When I am challenged in this area I tend to find support from other words. I particularly find strength from the creation story in Genesis. God creates and says ‘it is good’. God creates humanity and says ‘it is very good’. I also find strength in these words from Psalm 139 …. when feeling alone or down, the words of this Psalm kick me up the arse basically and force me to take on board the truth.

So … following from last nights film … and realising how many people really are dealing with past shit due to others … and not looking for words of encouragement or platitudes personally (cos I already have 2 great friends who do that of whom I’m incredibly thankful) … I share this as some form of support …

Is there anyplace I can go to avoid your Spirit?
to be out of your sight?
If I climb to the sky, you’re there!
If I go underground, you’re there!
If I flew on morning’s wings
to the far western horizon,
You’d find me in a minute—
you’re already there waiting!
Then I said to myself, “Oh, he even sees me in the dark!
At night I’m immersed in the light!”
It’s a fact: darkness isn’t dark to you;
night and day, darkness and light, they’re all the same to you.

Oh yes, you shaped me first inside, then out;
you formed me in my mother’s womb.
I thank you, High God—you’re breathtaking!
Body and soul, I am marvelously made!
I worship in adoration—what a creation!
You know me inside and out,
you know every bone in my body;
You know exactly how I was made, bit by bit,
how I was sculpted from nothing into something.
Like an open book, you watched me grow from conception to birth;
all the stages of my life were spread out before you,
The days of my life all prepared
before I’d even lived one day.

Go today … be blessed in the thought that you are marvellously made! Not because I say so … but because the One who created says so!

just be you

30-x-24-reclaimed-billboard-and-spray-paint-on-canvas-just-be-you-tiful-brush-pink-paintA couple of years ago I was fortunate enough to join with the CMS pioneer course for a module, as well as join them for one of their Wednesday lunchtime Pioneer Witness sessions.

The CMS Pioneer Leadership Training Course is an excellent looking course … and I’ve recommended it in the past and not so quietly wished it was an option when I was trained for ordained ministry. Although … there is always the MA which one day I must grasp … (any sponsors out there want to help me get my brain working again …?)

The reason I love this course is that it seems to acknowledge and echoes the reality that God places us and God uses us, with the gifts and interests that God has already given us, rather than leaving us thinking we need to know a lot more or develop new skills before we can be of any use to ourselves or God.

As an illustration I smile when I think back over my time in Rochester. I really did not know what to do or how to connect with people. I did know my particular passions; I like people, I love coffee, I love beer, I’m into football and love art. Those things make up the person that I am. I did not realise or understand how amazingly God would use those things in my life.

Three years into that Rochester thing, as I reflected I was forced to laugh with my spiritual director as we identified that, pretty amazingly, God was doing nothing more than allowing me to use what I was already interested in. So … I was sat a lot in the pub and in coffee shops. I have found some great friends in the art community who I still chat with now and had loads of conversations in the pub about football. The only other gift I really needed to develop was an understanding of what it means to be present and real, keeping integrity with people I had grown to love.

It seemed that God had created me with my interests and passions … and that is how God wanted to use me! Amazing to think that God used my love of beer, coffee, art and football … but he did. It continues today in Gillingham.

This month  the CMS Pioneer Friends update interviews Erika, who uses her passion for nails in her nail bar in a coffee space. I find that refreshing and amazing.

So … the point of my post today? If you are wondering how God is going to use you … ask yourself …

‘what am I already passionate about and interested in?’

… It’s likely that the stuff you are already doing, and loving doing, is the very thing that God wants to cultivate and grow and bless as you meet and link with others.

What this world, our personal communities, need are Christians that love life, love what they are doing, in that John 10:10 way … living life to the full … surely means enjoying life too. We talk of a hope in Christ … we need to live in the laughter and joy of that hope.

So … to speak simply … just be you!
God created you as you.
Surely …
That’s got to be enough!

the face you had before you were born

urlI find today’s Richard Rohr comment strikes a nerve with me.

Your True Self is who you objectively are from the beginning, in the mind and heart of God, “the face you had before you were born,” as the Zen masters say. It’s who you were before you did anything right or anything wrong. It is your substantial self, your absolute identity, which can be neither gained nor lost by any technique, group affiliation, morality, or formula whatsoever’

Last week I spoke with the same Christian man I spoke of yesterday with the strong sexist and racist views. He outlined how he thought all babies were born evil and condemned to hell unless they ‘accepted Jesus as their personal lord and saviour’. He used the concept or ‘original sin’ to justify this. To me that doesn’t look much like Jesus so it can’t have anything to do with God.

Today I baptised a beautiful baby today called Toby. Toby is the son of Zoe and Tony who I married when I was a curate at the cathedral – my first wedding at the cathedral. This was one of those real privilege situations which do not come around very often. But … as I held Toby in my arms … to think of him in any other terms than blessing and perfection does not really have much of Jesus in it … so can it be of God?

I have never fully accepted or resonated with Augustine’s concept of original sin. If we look at the Genesis accounts, God looks at creation and says ‘it is good’; next God looks at humankind, who are created in God’s image, and says ‘they are VERY good’.

Our ORIGINAL state as humanity is one that God calls very good. Not just ‘good’ like the rest of creation, but ‘very good’ …. even better than creation. Just let that sink in a  minute …. I’ve tried and can’t …. I’ve seen some pretty amazing parts of God’s creation which are stunning …. and yet to hear, believe and accept that God thinks I am even better than them is a pretty mind blowing concept.

But … just because it is mind blowing … and hard to accept … does not neutralise the truth that it is so! 

I think that blows any ideas of the original-ness of sin or evil right out of the water, beyond the sea, over the mountains, through the stratosphere and into a totally different solar system! One that doesn’t exist! Rather than original sin I think we are created in original perfection or original blessedness, because this is our original state.

If we could fully accept and live our lives out of that … wouldn’t that be pretty amazing!