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The hidden labours

April 13, 2019

IMG_2276
the hidden labours

Anxiety
Anger
Accountability
Prayer
Patience
Love
Learning
Letting go
Grace
Grit
Grief
Forbearance
Forgiveness

Holding tenaciously to sanity
Telling hard truths to self
Resisting easy evils
Pursuing and puzzling the way through to justice

Rewiring the circuits of care and compassion in the cold cold dark when the fuse has blown

Restringing the heart’s guitar when the nickel is worn and untuneable and so silence holds out against songs for a long bitter hour

Stripping back and sanding the gathering table in the basement –  it takes weeks before a meal can be hosted again

Slow small point by point stitching of scraps of warmth and hope into a new blanket – perhaps ready by winter?

These are the invisible tasks
unseen exhaustions
subterranean toils
worthy labours
for which there are no awards
or grades or applause
or polls or honourable mentions

The soul is a sweat shop
dingy dusty
pittance pay
no job security
survival
or yet living
liminal

moment to moment
hand to mouth
earth to breath
rib to flesh

Oh grubby hands of God
knuckle gnarled
stubby thumbed
invisibly
making ever-loved
forms of life
apprentice me
to your
covert craft

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wilderness

March 16, 2019

Desert

let us go out into the wilderness
let us sit in dust
in raw heat
and hunger
let our faces be tears and sweat
and lick the threat of thirst
and wipe our brow with a stone sponge
blessed are those who hunger and thirst for justice.
let us leave all that we have built up
let us leave behind the cathedral sacristry
where we raped our children
let us leave behind the place of prayer
where we slaughtered the peaceful
how can we see God there
through the semen and the blood?
We forsook God
as have forsaken love
so we are godforsaken
blessed are the poor in spirit; they shall see God
let us abandon our plots
and our plowshare weapons
let us eat grasshoppers and grubs
scratched and scorched and scarred
let us go into the wilderness
far into the wilderness
deep into the wilderness
wilderness of God
let us hold our heads in the dizzy confusion
of moral and mental dehydration
knowing only that we do not know
that we are not the clever controllers of the cosmos
that we do not understand
let us be assailed by the epiphany of our
epic epistemological failures
blessed are the meek
let us shed our single right and left wing
pretense at futile flying
ever in self-bound vulture circles
let us crouch in dust
buttocks to the ground
til our bones grind
our muscles give us hell
and no position is sitting well
let us buy out of our stocks and shares in solutions
let us dry out from our intoxication with violence
let us cry out the floods of tears it will take
to know ourselves maybe human again
let us try out the truth of this:
all humanity is equal in vulnerability
cursed are weaponised
blessed are those who mourn
vulnerability
equality
humanity
humility
oh god. oh god. oh god.
have we any humanity left in your eyes?
can we ever be your people?
send us out into the wilderness
until we are weary and wrought
wasting away and wanting
then. then. then…
haste the day that we become utterly desperate for peace
are we there yet? no.
blessed are the peacemakers
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who is important?

March 2, 2019
IMG_1676 (1)so much attention
in all this week
still given to the the strong
and not to the meek
 
in all this so-called
justice hour
so much centred
on the célébrité notoire
 
have we listened as much to the testimonies
of the royal commission years?
sat and watched the men and women
exhume their childhoods in tears
 
bodies
minds
beings
humanity
invaded
disrupted
misused
abandoned
who has given time to understand?
 
we would rather join the band
and bloody vengeance demand
be satisfied with one guilty soul
sent screaming into hell’s black hole
 
than see the terrible truth
that here in paradise
how ‘freedom’ makes
the powerful bold
 
and liberty is
a commodity
bartered
traded, sold
 
ill afforded
out of reach
by those who lack
position
property
networks
citizenship
ingroup
status
representation
power of speech
 
Oh God
abused God
humiliated
dehumanised God
what dare we pray?
the story thats told is “we locked one away!!!”
 
and all that has changed
is now churches are spurred
too look at the least
long seen and not heard
still mute and managed,
not heard and scant seen
our children our subclasses
– you know who I mean
 
persons judged of lesser intellect, belonging,
unwelcome abilities
now viewed
through the lens
of legal liabilities
*
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don’t wait up

January 28, 2019

are you like me

lying buried

all the earth

heavy upon you

have you fallen

as I have fallen

into a dark dirt

a rich decay

are you dead

as I am dead

here i lie

dropped

done

dead

do you know

are you a seed

as I am a seed

the soil will seep in

and split me apart

do you feel it too

in your breaking heart

this death is real

there is no light

no hope

no joy here

don’t sing a song

of a sweet little seed

she is alone

and dead

underground

all those who would sing

or celebrate or love

will have to wait up there

in the light above

she won’t be up

appearing

anytime soon

got some important

dying to do

maybe you have too.

 

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Picking a fight like Paul

November 20, 2018
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 I probably spend more time thinking about the New Testament character ‘Paul’ and his written words and the implied actions from those words more than I think about almost anyone else. It’s a occupational hazard I guess.
I have to say, I never picture him as the sculptor Michaelangelo has rendered him – formal, elite, commanding. It just doesn’t fit the voice in my head when I read his writings: impulsive, vernacular, a little bit crude, antsy, intense and rough and smelly.
Paul’s writings are often appealed to in theological and ecclesial debated to settle matters. He certainly knew how to plant himself in the hottest part of the furnace of contention.  And it appears he was not much of a settler and more of a stirrer if the characterisation by Luke in Acts and the rhetorical style of the letters is anything to go by.
Our faith community is in roaring pain and what feels like irreconcilable conflict regarding the use of our church property for same sex weddings.
.
Of course, much of the conflict does not directly address the use of property for same sex wedding. Rather this practical question has become a lightning rod for a range of other subterranean wounds, fears, crusades and old fights: the possible theological meanings of marriage,
how we understand human sexuality,
the imperatives of mission,
the relation of church to culture and to the state,
the way biblical texts are understood to exercise authority in individual’s lives and in the church community.
.
This last question is very significant for a recalcitrant old-school evangelical like me, for whom ‘evangelical’ means focus on proclaiming in body and affect and speech the Good news of the hope of God – as against focus on maintaining the traditions of the institutional church.
I have found myself drawn towards seeing Paul’s repeated use in 1 Corinthians and Galatians (twice) of the line ‘neither circumcision, nor uncircumcision is anything, but…[faith working through love] [new creation] [obeying the commandments of God] is everything.’(Gal 5:6; 6:15; 1 Cor 7:19)
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How very Paul, also, that what he claims as the ultimate ‘everything’ in each context is expressed differently.
You can imagine the Galatians (if they are anything like us) then dividing and arguing –
is faith working through love everything?
or is new creation everything?
or is obeying the commands of God everything?
Isn’t circumcision the commands of God anyway – so how can it be nothing?
and on they would go…
.
But perhaps this is an example of the radical middle as a ‘biblical position’.
..
We know that Paul has a reputation for arguing vehemently against the imposition of circumcision on Christians of the diverse ethnicities populating the cities of the ancient world. Famously his hyperbole reaches violent ideation as he wishes self-castration on the those who unsettle the community (Galatians 5:12)
..
And yet Paul inflicts this very ritual on his young companion Timothy in Acts 16 ‘because of the Jews’. Which side is he on?
In many modern debated Paul would be seen as inconsistent, compromising and succumbing to cultural accomodation.
..
Our biblical giant Paul the Apostle – from whom we hope to find an authoritative wisdom on issues of sexuality and marriage and culture and law –  turns out to both write and act in ways that confound allegiance ‘no matter what’ to one side or the other embarrassingly ‘unbiblical’.
..
I have strong convictions on lots of things. I’m inclined to think and act with passion.
The question of ‘what matters’ matters a lot to me.
And that people matter matters a lot to me too.
..
I hope, as I participate in our community conversations,  I can align myself with what matters – faith working through love, new creation, obeying the command of God: Love.

 

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The Today Show

October 15, 2018

It’s another difficult morning

sitting here on this planet

surrounded by one genuine orbiting moon

and a whole lot of real live lunatics

all just like me

as I think we all must be

to bother breathing

in this putrid air of hate and malice

not a clear thought

as our brains, starved of oxygen

have slowly shut down

first our vision

then empathy

our humanity

then justice

mercy

sense

and all our words

hacking

violent

coughs and splutters

spitting out

little vile judgement snots

that will infect and spread

trailing off with

a faux conciliatory wheeze

of self justification

for a little sotto voce

contrast.

and…cut.

 clapper

Cut – to distraction before we think about the consequences of our words.

Cut – and let the edge of our words sink deeper into those they have splayed.

Cut – out cardboard puppet people parading peroxide ‘personalities’

Cut – back to  basic blancmange types – hair, teeth, tan and tattle-talk.

Cut – open the wounds of the vulnerable afresh for voyerist dissection

Cut – connection to and understanding of 1.6 billion people. 

Cut – off our nose to spite our face

Cut – out my heart.

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the conversation among male christian leaders on the Blasey-Ford/Kavanaugh case.

October 6, 2018
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I am watching the online conversation among some male christian leaders in response to the Blasey-Ford/Kavanaugh hearings. I hear men defending men. I hear men defending a man they don’t know to preserve an ideal male powerful life. I hear them lean away from the idea that Ford is truthful, that Ford is genuine. The political consequences of the situation seem to negate the importance of her story for any of us to pay attention to carefully.
So I turn to speak to the Male Christian leaders amongst us:
Do you want to know how sexual abuse happens, and isn’t prevented, and isn’t addressed and is left to go another generation? Do you want to know?
Do you want to know.
 
I have heard evangelical leaders speak about being committed to take zero-tolerance measures for domestic violence and sexual abuse in the church, and in our communities.
 
If you want to know about this, you will need to hear the testimonies and just believe them. Not put on your ‘objective distance of evaluation.’ – setting yourself outside the situation as if you were not already tied to one side. You are tied by experience to one side.
I know I am tied to the side of the abused. I was given no choice about that. Be honest about your bias.
 
You ask to hear our testimonies but this – so far – is what seems to happen.
 
Another woman brings her testimony and you say ‘no not that one, that principal of the college has left now and things have changed, so tht one doesn’t count’.
Another woman brings her testimony and you say ‘no not that one, he’s a high profile church leader and this is part of a smear campaign, so that one doesn’t count.’
Another woman brings her testimony and you say ‘no not that one, there were always issues with her mental health so its messy, so that one doesn’t count’.
Another woman brings her testimony and you say ‘no not that one, its a fine line, who is to say what is consensual and not in a marriage, so that one doesn’t count.’
A woman brings her testimony and you say ‘no not that one, that happened too long ago, and its all messed up with american politics so that one doesn’t count’.
A man (because, yes #notallmen) dares to endorse her testimony and you say ‘typical lefty’ – so that one doesn’t count.
 
I tell you this.
Every single instance of abuse is messy, lines were blurred – that’s how it happens.
Every single instance of abuse reporting will threaten the career/marriage/position of someone in power and have some kind of political undertone – that’s how it is.
Every single instance of abuse will lack evidence, and boil down to he says/she says; word against word, because it is in those situations that abuse of power can occur, because males know that females can’t tell without losing their own credibility, that the odds of immunity are absolutely stacked in favour of the male. And look – you ably demonstrate this phenomenon – in public, right now.
 
So uphold the system if you like, but spare us the humiliation of asking for our testimony only to further strip us of our dignity. Spare us the offence of making pronouncements of being champions of women’s safety. 

Do I sound angry and gutted by your conversation?

Do I lack grace and poise.
Yes?
Ok -good.  This is what it is like for women who have been abused to hear your public conversation. We get angry, we are sick of drawing down on our stores of grace for repeat abuse. That’s not what grace is for.  
You. Christian leaders. If you are standing there with a stone for Ford, talking about her guilt, or motives or the politicisation of the hearings –
Thankyou at least for showing us your colours.
But I ask you – what do you think you are doing?