Waite on Solitude

IMG_0458On Tuesday evening I attended an amazing Sion College event which, this time, was held at the East India Club. The subject of the evening was ‘Solitude’ with the speaker being Terry Waite.

Wow is all I can say.

Terry spoke amazingly without notes for 10 to 15 mins. He was humorous in sharing some stories, humble when sharing of his 5 years from 1987-1991 held as a hostage and deeply profound when reflecting on how that 5 years , most of being in solitary confinement, had affected his ongoing life and work.

Two of the simply most awesome comments he shared were that although he would never wish to repeat the experience that he was ‘the better for it’ and that he found no problem forgiving his captors. The latter he said was due to being able to take the time to understand the reason for their actions (he then digressed a little on to the current Middle East situation and the West response … maybe I’ll blog about that at a later date) … I would hope I would be able to do the same in such circumstances but am not sure I would be as bold as this man who not only forgave but has been back on a number of occasions and has continued in his work of hostage relief even offering to go to Iran in 2007 to negotiate with those holding hostage British sailors.

I jotted down a few other notes which hit me …

When engrossed in rough times he made some suggestions of outlooks to get though the experience:
have no regrets about what you did to get there
avoid self pity
don’t oversentimalise your situation
take the experience as an opportunity to get to know yourself better

Those are incredible words coming from a person held and deprived from all human communication for 5 years. I’ve reflected on them for a few days and it seems to be that they comprise some pretty good advice for most of the stuff life can throw at us, particularly the using of the opportunity to learn more about yourself rather than be pitiful and descend spiralling into a victim mindset that is particularly quite common for the who suffer from the imposter syndrome.

Thank you Terry for an amazing evening .. and thank you to the new people I met around the table for adding to what was just a great all round evening.

life with tears

mark2-20180412155052320_webI was moved to tears when I read this article from the Church Times on Saturday morning. Mark Edwards is interviewed on his book ‘Life After care: From Lost Cause to MBA’. The title makes it obvious this is a story about the struggle that continues into adult life when you experience rejection from parents, or in Mark’s case, being taken into care away from his parents.

Mark shows courage in his sharing his story and there are some lines that particularly resonate …
“I have experienced the dark night of the soul. And sometimes I haven’t felt worthy of being a priest‘, and experiencing “bouts of depression that left him curled up like a baby’ as well as outlining childhood ‘fear when locked in a cupboard by foster carers’.

It’s hard to imagine, I think, if you’ve not been there what the effect of such experiences can be in a persons ongoing life. Mark sums this up, I believe, in a really truthful statement … when he admits that even today being asked to trust someone causes him to ‘bristle’.

I get this because when people who should naturally love you (in my case both parents) let you down and, worse, hurt you then trust for anyone and anything can be a real challenge. In fact I find sometimes that it can be near to impossible …. despite the overwhelming evidence that is there of love or approval and support from that  person, trusting in them or it seems a chasmous step. So much so that often when in a  ‘trust situation’, I have heard in my head  the words ‘well if my own mum couldn’t …. then why would I expect you too?!’

I think we can easily overlook this in church, believing that a faith in Jesus heals this and therefore should allow the person to move on …. it does, but not instantly, not completely, and not always. The image I have found most helpful and light giving in my darkest times are of the scarred Christ … the Christ in heaven with the open wounds in his hands, feet and side.

I believe I am healed, I am risen, but I also know that I still carry the scars … and if the scabs on those injuries are knocked or picked they can start to bleed again.

For Mark, as with others, he talks of people that believed in him, of people that gave time to him, of people thats saw the potential and saw what he could be if given some space, trust and support. I relate strongly to that and have many people that have been those time and permission givers to me.

As tears rolled down my cheeks reading through the article one of Mark’s statements jumped out and hit me …

Today, as Team Vicar of Christ the King, comprising Brunswick, Brunton Park, Dinnington, and North Gosforth, in the diocese of Newcastle, he considers himself to be in recovery, and determined to live in the present.

This is central to his prescription, as is taking responsibility for one’s actions. “I played the victim so long, I didn’t know how to be anything else,” he reflects. “There came a point when I had to stop blaming my past for bad decisions I was making in the present.”

It is a daily choice to make.
It is a difficult one.
It’s the right and necessary one.

Reading the article, wondering on my own situation has brought a few bubbling questions …

As church, as people, how do we allow people to make that step from victim?
How do we support those inside and outside our churches who don’t have that firm solid bedrock of loving parents that were supposed to look after them and give them that sure start?
Are there things that we do that actually make it worse, that keep people as victims?
Do we expect people to ‘move on’ when they have ‘found’ Jesus?
Do we support our leaders who struggle?
Are there people we should be giving time to?
Do we look for potential or for perfection?Do … are … how …can …what …

Lots of questions … and I’m sure lots more …. discuss …

Broken Disturb

BrokenTonight we watched the last of the Lent series on Broken at Agapai. This has been one of the grittiest, real, challenging, anger inducing, tear rolling, deep discussion promoting Lent series I have ever been involved in.

A lot of this comes down to the power of the program, the skills of Paula Gooder as the writer; but the majority reason for why this has been a positive Lent course is down to the commitment of each member of the group in finding the time in incredibly busy lives  to watch the episode for an hour and then be willing to make themselves vulnerable in contributing and/or answering questions.

Tonight we chatted about how we had found the series … gritty, challenging, anger inducing … are all words that came to us as we sat around the table and shared food. I believe it has driven home to each of us, more as a reminder than a lesson, that as people of faith we can;’t help but be involved in our lives, in our communities and in our worlds. We also acknowledged that sometimes a ‘Christian response’ was not unique or obvious … as we considered hard hitting questions of how we would react, or the lengths we might go to, try and combat the effects of extreme poverty in our lives.

I have really valued getting together with this group of great, and not always agreeing, people …. we’ve had great discussions and ourselves. The series notes ended with this prayer attributed ti Francis Drake. It resonated with every one of us.

Disturb us, Lord, when
We are too well pleased with ourselves,
When our dreams have come true
Because we have dreamed too little,
When we arrived safely
Because we sailed too close to the shore.

Disturb us, Lord, when
With the abundance of things we possess
We have lost our thirst
For the waters of life;
Having fallen in love with life,
We have ceased to dream of eternity
And in our efforts to build a new earth,
We have allowed our vision
Of the new Heaven to dim.

Disturb us, Lord, to dare more boldly,
To venture on wider seas
Where storms will show your mastery;
Where losing sight of land,
We shall find the stars.
We ask You to push back
The horizons of our hopes;
And to push into the future
In strength, courage, hope, and love.

Amen to that!

 

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
overwhelmed
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.