Random {chat} between sisters

Me:

What is in the hampers?

Friend:

Two bottles of wine, a bottle is spirits, a box chocolates and/or biscuits. I’ll see what comes tomorrow when the delivery arrives.

Me:

really??? wow… we could never do that

Friend:

Hampers aimed at non Christians. They have money too!

Me:

I know, I am not judging, just comparing what we do here

to what you do there

Friend:

The joy of different churches.

Still. You get to preach and lead. I don’t. Different strokes.

Mer:

I guess I prefer my side of the fence then

plot{lines}

The news hit me like a tidal wave that took not only my breath but also my entire history away. My childhood had been like walking across a never-ending stretch of quicksand. I had to keep moving or I would sink without trace.

 

So who am I? This person with no history. How do I rebuild a new history that is not a tissue of lies from other people but a true reflection of what really happened for all the people concerned.

 

Alopecia and vomit stained overcoats, where was the love? How did the participants in my coming into the world actually get together and why? What made them stay together beyond a year or two?

 

I was reading a story and lost the plot, it disappeared and I didn’t know where to go to find it. I walked in Dublin and cried on the tree lined avenues, the red brick semi-detached houses made me feel more alienated than ever. I walked to my train on Wednesday, again not wanting to go home. Because I didn’t know how to be the me they knew anymore. I was a different me and they found that hard.

 

On Thursday I went to Ballybunion with Lorelei and we walked on the beach and I realised I didn’t lose the plot because that plotline never existed, it was their imagination.

 

My reality is not in their imagination and so now it is necessary to go back to the beginning and work out a real plot. I shall scrutinise all the characters and it may be a time for some pruning. Too many characters can spoil the plot.

 

I remember reading someone’s blog, I think it may have been the white space author when she had a complete epiphany and had to rewrite her history and that is what I have to do. But I never expected this. I wanted the Disney story of being brought up in the wrong home. Or being sent to Mallory Towers, I would even have accepted “care.”

 

Throughout my life I have wanted those things, because I did not belong to the historical framework of my family and I knew it. Somehow, deep down I knew I was being fed untruths, not the full story, lies and deceit. But I always thought it was because underneath the solid rock of our shared history was something so awful “about me.”

 

The freedom I feel now is like a 51-year-old weight has been lifted from my shoulders. It isn’t my fault; there is no one to blame. We were just child pawns, in a very grown up game of chess. My brother and I are known for picking up our ball and leaving the playing field. My sister stays on the pitch crying out for us all to come back.

 

Weirdly then, it is I who wants to bring some peace and clarity to all our lives, I want to give a voice to people who have had no voice. I want to explore with them what it means to live, truly live. And maybe, just maybe I will share.

what’s in a day?!?

January 31st 2015

You, Lord, are forgiving and good, abounding in love to all who call to you.

Psalm 86:5

February 1st 2015

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.

Deut 6:5

As I pootle through Wesley’s sermons I find his favourite verses and the root of his theology: Love.

All he ever did was done in love, he preached in love, he had that strong social justice that is missing from this world in love.

[as an aside: sanitising rooms, airbrushing people & changing words do not add love in the equation. My heart broke listening about a “tent guy” who fifty years ago would have had a bed in a warm room with three meals a day and be given medication. Today we think he is free because he sleeps in a tent and sits talking to trees. I am not saying go back. I am saying we can do better than both scenarios]

For the past week I have been under the illusion that the two S’s would be back tomorrow at about 7pm or leaving at 7pm. This morning I get a text with 5:50pm, that is all it said (have I mentioned we are pants at communication) so I had to ask “Today?” and the reply came “yes.”

A and I have kind of spread out so we must undo the unspreading and revert to shared accommodation for four instead of two. But what was puzzling for me is this:

I had got up at my usual time to let Lorelei out into the frosty morning for her constitutional and then looked up my verse for the day. I contemplated it as I prayed about all the things I was to do today and was very encouraged by the verse. I thought back to the heavy burden I used to carry and sang of how grateful I was for forgiveness and clean slates.

But with the text conversation my day is different, what I must do is different, what I would like to do is different. So I returned to my verse and it no longer fitted because it fitted with a different kind of day. I looked up the verse for tomorrow and I had just recorded “circumcision of the heart” where love, Deut 6:5 and Matthew 22:36-40 are again freely distributed throughout the sermon and I smiled…

You know, that wry smile, when all the clothes are folded and put away, when the cobwebs are gone, when every last part of your life (for a moment) is tidy, organised and chaos free. When a truth written thousands of years ago is as true today as it was back then. When the holy Spirit convicts you, circumcising your heart, when it is not about you, but all about God and his enduring mercy. I have had my holi(Y)days this week. There has been much conversation, much challenge, rebuke, correction and encouragement, there has been beautiful silences like the one as I write. The  concepts of work & rest, of physical & spiritual were balanced with precision, each feeding the other. I have had a truly blessed week, a restful (dare I say: lazy) week when bible studies and food prep were trouble free.

That wry smile that then prepares me for noise, for other people, for love of my family. So a day early they return and the bustle of house means dust won’t have time to settle, spiders will scurry off next door to quietness. But in the bustle of my life there is peace & joy & love in abundance.

A

Sermon Twenty Three Light and money

john                                      audio clip

Wesley spends only a few paragraphs on light, although this is key to the rest. If we are light in the dark then we are no longer part of the world. So the things of the world like gaining wealth, ambition, opulence are no longer part of us.

He flew at the wealthy like a banshee in the night. His boy must have shook with emotion as he roared these words at the people in the congregation who pursued wealth at all cost.

We cannot help if we are born into a wealthy family or an academic family or a family living in a tent at the side of the road. But once we have matured into grown ups we can change our circumstances dramatically. Reg Dwight was born into a council house in Pinner and grew up listening to Bill Hailey and the Comets. At some point in the ‘90’s he danced with royalty to “Rock around the clock.” Now money was not the motivator in his life, fame and musical accolades were his thing but he became extremely wealthy. He gives money away but also leads an opulent lifestyle and gives excessive gifts to his friends. His upbringing and background possibly make him the way he is today.

Equally John Wesley’s thoughts on money must surely have come from his upbringing and background. His dad did time for debt. Wesley’s job as a minister in the C of E changed because of his views (can a vicar be sacked?) and he was attacked on all fronts. Many  people with power and wealth were against him and wrote and preached against his teachings. So this sermon can be seen as a rebuttal to their charges.

Part of the reason I stopped my career were my concerns of how my family were coming to use money. There was no saving, just ever more opulent spending that caused an enormous amount of debt. I believe in living simply but had somehow not managed to convey this in family life. In taking our family down from 80k to 20k in one month we learned lots of things about each other. We were able to pinpoint the places where money was leaking and we made attempts to shore up the damage.

I would never, in all honesty, be able to preach on money in the way John Wesley did without pricking my own conscience as he has done whilst I read it. Yes I live simply on a day to day basis but so I can technological advances regularly. I am a technophile and have inherited from my father the need to have the latest and best. I am working on it, there is less stuff. But it is a work in progress that backslides with each new lens for my camera and app purchased.

I have heard the defence of riches on earth within the Christian community, I suppose churches need rich people in them to maintain them. Our treasurer (the moneychanger I like to call him) and I have discussions on tithing, appropriate tithing, the need or not for tithing among other things. There’s a pastor in America who tithes 90% of his income, but if that was a million there would still be a hundred thou to live on so I don’t think that is a reality for most.

“How do people live like that,” a wealthy friend said of someone in a one bedroomed house “I need my things,” and on another occasion, “how poor is he, he is always well groomed, is he really poor?”

Holding onto our riches, whatever they are, is a barrier to the love of God, without a shadow of a doubt. So very slowly I am freeing myself of my worldly possessions, piece by piece I am giving away “my stuff” and I pray that I will healed of it so much I don’t fill the space with more “my stuff”

A friend told me that her pastor spoke about having a spring clean, physically and spiritually and that by decluttering their space they decluttered their minds and hearts too. So they banded together and decluttered each others homes and recluttered from the “stuff” of others. There was positive things in the process although the end was not what was asked. Fellowship among the congregation increased and people felt they had new stuff without buying it.

Money is a contentious issue in the world right now so it is bound to be contentious in church. We are all works in progress and help is needed.

Pray for One Another

17 But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. 18 Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness. James 3:17-18

hands on bible

You know how it is, a bunch of like minded people get together for an occasion and everyone is happy and it is all swimmingly beautiful and because we are all children of God it is even better.

There is no need to put in the nitty gritty of what happens when you get down and dirty and discover that instead of a band of happy clappies we are a bunch of diverse folk who in the body of Christ are united.

We are united in spite of ourselves, we are united because of ourselves.  We are united because we are focused on the Cross, focused on Christ and refuse to let distractions come in  and take that unity away.

A young chap I know wants to know why he has been given lots of different disabilities that make it difficult to learn, speak, see and  walk. He wants to know why. On top of that why does he pick up every infection, has open weeping sores, is allergic to almost everything and his intestines are now causing him pain and discomfort.

“Why me?” He asks me, as if I am the fount of all wisdom. I shrug my shoulders and then tell him I have shrugged my shoulders. Sometimes I think “Why not him?” other times I think, “Why not me?” other times I don’t get past the shrug.

You see, I don’t know and I don’t want to give him some wishy washy happy clappy cliché ridden statement that will make me feel better having addressed the issue but leave him floundering in the abyss. There are no easy answers, now some will say “the sins of the ….” and others will say “the more you suffer here the more blessed …”

What would you say?

Many years ago I held a dying child in my arms, death had him claimed, blood vessels had popped on his skin surface due to the severe pressure of not breathing, he was sweating blood, his skin was turning blue, his body limp when an act of heroic “not now” brought breath back into the body, the limp became solid, the blue became pink. When this man-boy now stands before me and says “Why me?” I think back to those minutes when the oxygen was stopped and the “not now” happened and try to map out a different route a “What if?”

I don’t get far, I don’t regret the saving of a life, I don’t regret that because of that point in our shared history we now have these discussions where he asks and I shrug. I don’t regret anything.

That moment, that crucial jigsaw piece that fits five people’s jigsaw of life is a root stone. What happened in that moment changed us all. We are rooted to each other and to that moment, not in a sentimental, always looking back, nostalgic way, but life changed for all of us that day.

Are you living with regret?

In the unity of family be it genetic or church, stuff happens. There are moments like that, when there is no breath – someone has said something and the family turns to see what happens next. We are called to not turn our backs on our family and yet this country is full of family feuds that have lasted lifetimes and generations until no one knows what the argument was about.

Families should stick together, pray together, love together because no matter how many differing opinions there are the focus should be on Christ, on the Cross. We have been provided for abundantly to live this life, not in monetary terms but in our very being we have been given gifts to nurture family in spite of ourselves.

Church families across this land need prayer today, all churches need prayer today, the people in those churches, in the churches of our land, in your church and my church, all churches. The people need prayer. Pray for unity with me today. Pray for broken hearts to be healed. Pray for tears to be wiped away. Pray for all our brothers and sisters in Christ today.

The Prayer of Faith

13 Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray. Is anyone happy? Let them sing songs of praise.14 Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord. 15 And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven. 16 Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.

17 Elijah was a human being, even as we are. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years. 18 Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops.

19 My brothers and sisters, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring that person back, 20 remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of their way will save them from death and cover over a multitude of sins. James 5:13-20

tuesday

I have never experienced a Tuesday where every situation met ended favourably. I sit now, a little uncomfortable, as if something isn’t quite right because it went so well.

AIB – the k on his account is in place so free currency transactions and share dealings. He taught them a bit of disability awareness, he was great.

Credit union – no queue,

Community Welfare – I have to say they are absolutely brilliant dealing with him, so kind.

Post office – who said these people don’t care, all know him by name, fill out forms, sign his name, beautiful people

Ulster bank – so nice to me, even though they have no concept of my worldview, did not laugh, were just kind.

Brudair’s – Katya has managed to teach the older ones how to make a proper Americano, she has such patience, well impressed, she works under the most difficult of circumstances. He treated me to coffee, I buttered his scone.

Penney’s – totally forgot that children would be in there today, it looked like an obstacle course, daunted by skipping kids, thinking of him. Those kids, so kind, moved out of his way, didn’t stare like the church kids do. One wee boy started chatting to him, he’s so not used to that. Kristof at the check out, so kind when I left my purse and bag at his station. He ran down the length of the shop to give them to me, so kind.

Heaton’s – a lovely shop assistant helped him decide on a case and was still being kind when he said he’d think about it.

Library – librarian helped me put books away for people and let me take two books for swops without swopping, kindness imbued.

What a day!

Ross_4

what company! totally blessed!

Thank you Lord for the most wonderful children, they love you in their different ways, You know that. They show Your love in their lives, in the kindness they show and the results are seen in the way people treat them. Lord you gave me these children to nurture and grow, they belong to you first and me second. I have watched them grow into independent young men, thank you Lord for watching over them too. Amen

changed

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. 1 Corinthians 13:13

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What is your heart looking like today? If you were to imagine a reflection of it, which is what other people see, would it be the soft pulsating organ, or would the reflection look like grafitti on an abandoned warehouse, or would it be like a pile of rubbish hidden behind bars or perhaps the reflection of a crumbling aging wall, tired from the journey, wanting rest?

The love, grace and mercy we have received from God should be apparent in our lives, not just on Sunday when we are as a congregation on our best behaviour, but that best behaviour should be apparent all day, every day.

It should be the way we are, to our children, to our parents, to family, to friends, to enemies and to any random person we meet in our everyday life. The check out person, the bank teller, the teacher, the pupil, all can see the reflection of our heart, let us make it a beautiful reflection.

Sometimes stuff happens that makes us revert to type, how other people have seen us in our past comes to the fore, we have to fight against that and keep our hearts and the reflection of our hearts as it is now. The broken hearted, remade into a soft loving heart that lives in the grace and mercy we have received and that wonderful love we have been given for free from the Lord.

Staying calm in the face of adversity makes the adversary unsure, the work that is going on in them is not from God, so being still and staying calm un-nerves them, they can’t understand it, they don’t “get” the difference in us because they expect someone different. I was at a lady’s house once a couple of years ago, she vehemently attacked me for being still whilst the conversation was going around, but in my stillness I was given a glimpse of a horrific ordeal from many years ago, long forgotten, not even on my radar of stuff to deal with, at her hands. In her vehemence I saw the real her, not the lady she presented to the world, I caught a glimpse of her heart and it was ugly, I saw images of extreme brutality, of extreme violence and all coated in sugar.

She has no idea that the thirty minutes I spent with her led me down a path, a wonderful blessed path of redemption, of forgiveness, of love because I didn’t want the reflection of my heart to have Myra Hindley in the mix, I couldn’t live with that bitterness and hatred and I realised I needed to change so I didn’t end up scared, alone, full of barriers and walls.

That was 2003, and it has taken me on a wild journey but I can honestly say my heart is soft, and nothing can change that unless I allow it. I have been made into a new creation, for which I am eternally grateful, and now facing a situation that doesn’t make human sense to me, watching a drama enfold having that question in my head, “Why do bad things….?” and being able to remain at peace, be still, rest in the arms of the Lord, waiting with patience, the answer will come, the words needed will come. Even facing the unthinkable, with the Lord makes it so much easier to bear.

I look back, just over 20 months to a similar situation, how it took me completely by surprise, the emotional response, blind sided by how much I loved this person. Today, I pondered had I instead of becoming soft had become hard because I was able to cope better. And the answer came, no, my heart is soft, I am not hardened to the situation, I have been prepared for this time, but more than that, this time I have my head resting against the shoulder of the Lord, the strength is not my own but the Lord’s. The emotions are the same, I am distraught and yet able to continue my daily life. The difference was noted, and I was able to share my faith with someone else grieving.

Faith, hope and love, along with the unending grace and mercy, allows us to be a true reflection, not distorted by things blind siding us, not distorted by the past, not distorted by momentary reactions in the present. Yes, we are going to get angry, be hurt, grieve, but we can let them go, we can place those emotions at the foot of the Cross and we can continue unburdened by them. We can see the rays of light through the cloud that help us and strengthen us enabling us to carry on.

Salford_3

Socks

There is something extremely intimate and personal in having someone put your socks on. There is a trust placed in the sock putter on that they will achieve ultimate sock satisfaction. On the other hand there is something humbling about being on your knees putting on socks.

I remember when my children were small having a wrestling match to get socks on, they wanted to be footloose, not hemmed in by socks and shoes, I’d chase them round the house, and inevitably it turned into a game that we ended up in a heap in giggles,  enjoying the moment, forgetting the socks.

I have been sock putter on, massager of legs, wound checker, dressing changer, wine deliverer, cook, washer up, duster, sweeper, post collector, newspaper deliverer, grocery shopper, freezer filler, plant waterer and feeder, washer, dryer and ironer for a week to my mother. I didn’t notice any of the chores, sure there was nothing else to do, until there was a third party in the room, and suddenly from the reaction on the third party’s face there was something not right in the tone of “Susan get Julie some wine.” I polished and cleaned with gusto, trying not to notice that items were re-placed by fractions of millimetres, that dishes were checked for cleanliness, cutlery and glasses for sparkle. Trying to be I suppose the dutiful daughter, coming out of love, caught up in all the feelings from a life time ago not of giggles, heaps and forgotten socks.

Yesterday, she waited until my siblings were present before raising her right hand with two socks in the palm. I just got on my knees put on the socks and the shoes and got back up again, my sister had her mouth open. In that orifice I could see she would never stoop to put on socks, she would never succumb to the love that was needed to care for someone usually so brittle caught unawares by the frailty of surgery, she would never do what I had just done. Looking to my oldest sibling, my brother, the pragmatic philosopher, the I am trying to be as intelligent as you by putting you down all the time, brother. He was aghast, a ghostly, ghastly, aghast. Whether it was seeing me, the independent, no one is going to tie me down, I am doing it my way or no way, in such a humble stance. Perhaps the nuance in movement needed to create the reaction in me of falling to my knees, surprised by the hand gesture calling me immediately to task, or like my sister unable to slump to the floor at the foot of the person that caused so much pain for him as a child.

Being on my knees is natural to me, natural to me in my new normal, natural to me because I bask in the glow of the love of the Lord, my Lord, my Saviour, and that love, that overwhelming, never changing, always equal love, has helped me breathe in and out when I found that hard, has helped me stand tall, taller than I have ever been in the face of adversity and has strengthened me and helped me get down on my hands and knees and put socks on in love.

Mothers’ Day in Manchester

We had a family gathering today, it is not something I am keen on, but sometimes due to illness or death the clan comes together. The family in question is my mother and my siblings, one male, one female. I am always at some point in the day cast as the baddie, the one who argues, the one who causes “an atmosphere”, the one that sticks out like a sore thumb. I have defence mechanisms for such occasions, I speak only when spoken to and keep my answers to a minimum of words. The least said, the less chance of being the one in the wrong.

I am forty six years old, the youngest of three and when we get together I feel ten and the cuckoo in the nest. Our starters hadn’t arrived today when I was told to “Stop it” through gritted vicious teeth. Today though I stuck up for myself and felt better for it, “Did you really just tell me to stop it, seriously” That wasn’t the start though, when my siblings arrived I was mid-tweet, so on bringing them up to the apartment I returned to finish it. “Put that away” I did as I was told and closed the laptop, both siblings got their phones out within seconds and ebayed, facebooked, tweeted or looked at their reflection, no comment. I sat quietly, the two siblings picked up magazines and began to read. I went out for a cigarette. The wrong thing to do, why do I always do the wrong thing. It is wrong for me to have my laptop open, it is wrong for me to leave when there is no conversation.

Of course things could only go downhill from there. When it was suggested that my husband wasn’t that tall, I replied, “No, he’s shorter than me, so not tall,” for some reason the conversation continued about his height culminating in me having to say “He’s taller than me, the same height, he can be whatever height you want”

I ate my starter slowly, not for any particular reason, it was a very nice tomato and basil salad and I was enjoying it. “Was I finished? Was I leaving it for my main course?” No I was just taking my time. I watched my siblings, my sister was being sarcastic and ironic, everything a joke, but with a nasty bitter aftertaste. My brother was silent unless spoken to, as was I. How did I get the flak? How did I manage to get cast as the baddie again? It all goes pear-shaped, and it is my fault.

Let’s blame me, we’ll wash over the sarcastic comment followed by three sets of laughter aimed at my faith, we’ll gloss over the pointed remarks about my not working, we will even forget that no one bothered to thank me for bailing them out this last week. What we are left with are barbed comments, my defence and that yet again, I am the worst daughter in the history of the world.

Dear Lord, thank you for accepting me into your family, in the crook of your arm I can rest, not for a few seconds respite but for all eternity. Thank you Lord that for the past week I have looked after my mother with the loving care needed. Lord when things go pear-shaped and there is no one to turn to for support, you are there, when the world is full of support, you are there. Lord you are amazing, thank you for the changes you have made in my life. Thank you that I can shed off the mantle of being the worst daughter, that for you I am equal with everyone else, we are all your precious children. We are loved. I am loved and I love you. Thank you Lord, amen