courage and vulnerability

life_s_journey_by_annakoutsidou-d6f3c0zI have written about Richard Rohr’s thoughts for the day in the past …. and no doubt I will again in the future. This past week Rohr has been talking about ‘Entering the Dark Wood’ and the need for pain and suffering to help us into the second parts of our lives. It is through pain and suffering, suggest Rohr, that we find ourselves, dismiss false gods and discover more of who God is.

Some quotes from the week that I have particularly resonated with:

It is only by a foundational trust in the midst of suffering, some ability to bear darkness and uncertainty, and learning to be comfortable with paradox and mystery, that you move from the first half of life to the second half.

A need to have everything explained and tightly boxed ties us in knots … being able to accept mystery, being unaware of the outcome, and knowing mystery is … well … mystery helps us to move on in our life journeys.

On Wednesday, a lot resonated, particularly with where I find myself at the moment …

To allow and fully experience the darkness is an immense act of courage (from cor-agere, “an act of the heart”). Our natural instinct is to pull back from others, to move into a self-chosen exile. But when we are cut off or alienated from others, wounds are exacerbated rather than healed.

In the darkness, it’s hard to feel courageous. We resist love. “I will prove that I’m unworthy. I will not let you get to me.” Yet we must turn toward the very people we are pushing away, those who love us and who see meaning in our life when we can’t. It sounds naïve and simplistic, but love is the greatest healer.

In the darkness, we usually look for someone to blame, to absolve ourselves from the problem. I think we’ve been led into a period of exile again, both as a culture and as a Church, as evidenced by increased hostility and blame of the “other.”

These words hit me with full force again tonight as I loo over the last few weeks and months in particular.
I believe that myself, and many others, conditioned by our upbringing and reinforced by a culture of today that tells us that we are the only ones that can help ourselves, tend to  hide away and find it hard to accept that love, particularly love from another, can be the greatest healer. But, instead, we chose exile.

I guess there is something here about making oneself vulnerable. (If you have not heard the Brene Brown vulnerability stuff get yourself over to Ted Talks and listen!) Although many of us understand vulnerability is key … it has been pretty central to most of my ministry … when it comes to our personal lives, sometimes that vulnerability can be incredibly scary to accept and sit with. That vulnerability can cause us to be hurt, puts us at risk of being abandoned, and opens us to being shattered by the acts of another person. No one wants that. Yet everyone needs that … not the shattering … but the vulnerability and the realisation that if it is accompanied with love it can be life changing.

If we could learn to accept that, personally, socially and globally … maybe …. just maybe … our lives, our society and our world would be better places to live in.

I’ll be honest tho …. I’m not there just yet …. so I’m off back to my cave to mull this stuff over …. stuff of a new life … the second part of life … the bit where we really live, really come alive, really rejoice! I’m close …. I’m walking in the right direction ….. slowly … but the right direction none the less …. I hope I arrive soon … or not too late at least!

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a special love …

20429624_10154784638772543_5760356242749648249_nYesterday was a special day.
I day when I saw these two beautiful people commit their lives to each other.
It was a very special moment and I don’t think I have been to a wedding ever before where there were tears, good tears, from every speech.
I think looking around the tables many others had tears of joy as well.
As ‘Uncle Rob’ I feel an incredible sense of pride to have been able to see how my eldest neice has grown in to the amazing woman that she is.
I have no right, have done nothing to deserve that feeling, but feel it just the same.

I do not really know Esgrid but his devotion to his new wife, and his sense of loyalty and love to his new family was very obvious. It was, again, something quite special to see and experience.

It’s clear these two have something special.
Something very special that is to be cherished and nurtured.
Rachel and Esgrid …. I pray that God continues to bless you both, to reassure you both, and that you will always be conscious of God walking and encouraging and loving and accepting you both.

We were asked to write blessings or comments and place them in that lovely red letterbox. I had something but failed to bring it with me … so I include this blessing here from John O’Donohue’s Book of Blessings

As spring unfolds the dream of the earth,
May you bring each other’s hearts to birth.

As the ocean finds calm in view of land,
May you love the gaze of each other’s mind.

As the wind arises free and wild,
May nothing negative control your lives.

As kindly as moonlight might search the dark,
So gentle may you be when light grows scarce.

As surprised as the silence that music opens,
May your words for each other be touched with reverence.

As warmly as the air draws in the light,
May you welcome each other’s every gift.

As elegant as dream absorbing the night,
May sleep find you clear of anger and hurt.

As twilight harvests all the day’s colour,
May love bring you home to each other.

Bless you both
Uncle R

ash love

Just LoveLent for me this year started in my favourite school with some of my favourite people to work with, on the day of the week which if often one of the highlights, or favourites, of my week. I never wake up on a Wednesday and feel I don’t want to get out of the house … I can’t say that for everyday, but I guess who can!

For me, starting Lent in the real world, with real people who don’t necessarily do the God thing felt to be incredibly right and correct. I don’t use the ‘love’ word lightly because I firmly believe it describes an incredibly strong emotion. I also feel the word ‘love’ is overused and so has become devalued. It seems to me that if a person says that they ‘love’ everything then in reality they ‘love’ nothing. But … I love Wednesdays, and have done for the last year … as I get to hang out with some pretty incredible people.

Along with some people from the gathering I am following the Just Love Lent book from Church Urban Fund. I have committed to trying to write something with the gathering once a week using this book as  basis. This is this weeks posts and will appear on the gathering facebook page as well.

I have been challenged by some of what I have read in this weeks chapter. The first theme is ‘spiritual and embodied love’.

The book makes some pretty bold and challenging statements:

when we love we do not simply imitate God. We participate in God’s very life.

Our daily actions will form us more and more into‘ (actually the book says ‘should’ but I am not sure I hold with the should statement. I’m not sure I follow a Christ who ever tells me what I ‘Should’ do … instead I follow a Christ who loves me and marvels at what I do in response to that love – which is pretty amazing in itself as I do little! 

I love the concept, but am having a challenge getting my head around that first quote. When we love, say the writers,  … we don’t just follow God’s example, but we actually become part of God. Jesus showed us how to love, and he leaves a manifesto in Matthew 5. When we join in this kind of love, it is then that we join in God’s own life. 

The chapter ends with a challenging question… ‘how do we embody God’s love faithfully and generously?’

So … how do we …. comments?

love is just … err love!

love-inspirational-dailyThere seems to be a recurring theme of sadness over discrimination and treatment of people coming through my thoughts and writings at the moment. I have been aware for some time that one of the things that really does ignite my personal anger is seeing someone treated unjustly, unfairly and simply not being treated with respect.

This upsets me because one of the core theological beliefs that fires me is that we are ALL made in the image of God. While this does not mean we are divine in any way, it does mean we are unique in our relationship with God and it means we are all worthy of respect and love. Not only all of us individually, but all of us personally! If this is true then we cannot choose who to respect or treat fairly based on our opinions of colour, gender, sexuality, or any other personal features. If we are all created in the image of God, then we are all created in the image of God and  all of every person is created in the Image of God.

Yet … a lot of church discussions at the moment seem to be focussed on doctrine and behaviour, rather than this simple mutuality of being created in God’s image.

One thing in particular that has saddened me this week is the ‘pastoral’ letter from the House of Bishops. I was encouraged by Bishop Alan’s response here…. who quotes Sister Simone Campbell ‘following the gospel mens be not afraid, welcome everyone, hug them, welcome them close and live and love’. While that encourages me …. the blog of Rachel simply makes me weep … the reality of this situation is simply not good news.

Why is it so difficult to accept that love is love, and that, actually, none of us, whatever our sexuality, has ever had any choice about who we fall in love with! 

If it doesn’t look like Jesus, it’s not God!

everyone has a story …

victoryI simply love Jamie the Very Worst Missionary‘s blog. I have followed Jamie’s blog for a few years. Sometimes she makes me stand up and shout ‘yes’, other times I come away thinking that I resonate with her feelings of frustration with Christians, and others I laugh at her courage and honesty.  Jamie has a real gritty knack of just saying how it is. The reality of mission that she writes about encourages me.

The other day this post, victory, moved me. It’s produced by Jamie’s church and is well worth watching. In this video Danielle tells hers tory. It’s powerful … especially when she hears from God, via the eyes of a deer, that he is sick of not having her, and that, essentially, he wants her back.

This is Danielle’s story … what’s yours?

a blessing …

urlI guess I find myself pretty frustrated that the church sometimes not only moves slowly, but seems to move insensitively. In this case I refer to the blessing of gay marriages, which to me seems to be a no-brainer! Surely, we can bless people in loving caring relationships, no matter what our view may be. After all, we bless gates, cushions and (when I was at the cathedral) lumps of stone …. I even bless rosaries in the prison when asked …. so why not people in love?

Bishop Alan blogs well on most things and his comments speak well:

‘If the Church wants to provide compassion, it can stop talking about gay people and start talking with them. It can demonstrate the genuinness of its care by ceasing to belittle and patronise them and start taking them seriously. If it wants to pray with them, this institution which cheerfully blesses nuclear submarines, hamsters and buckets of cement can start blessing their often stunning relationships.’

you can read the whole article here.

MInistry of presence

DSC_0088My friend Trevor pointed me to this article yesterday. It pretty much sums up what I am about. The article is all about meeting people where they are at in third spaces witht he aim solely of building friendship..  … there is one comment, though, in particular that I think is not strong enough and it comes towards the end of the article:

‘If we take this risk of connecting with folks, and our primary expectation and goal is filling pews on Sunday, you may want to re-think the project you are considering.’

I don’t believe there is any ‘may’ about it …. to have such an expectation and motivation would be a clear abuse and manipulation. The quote from Nouwen, one of my spiritual heroes, is a quote I love, aspire to be able to adopt and, of course, massive challenge:

‘But I wonder more and more if the first thing shouldn’t be to know people by name, to eat and drink with them, to listen to their stories and tell your own, and to let them know with words, handshakes, and hugs that you do not simply like them, but truly love them’.

Time to go … be present …and to love … presence has become key, but proving to be so elusive! As we approach Holy Week, I am coming to a greater realisation that presence may be the only thing we have.