Archive for the ‘wrestling with God’ Category



March 16, 2019


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
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


June 16, 2014
Grief stricken american soldier; Haktong-ni area of Korea, 28 August 1950

Grief stricken american soldier; Haktong-ni area of Korea, 28 August 1950













will I ever be well again?

will I ever be whole?
If I grit my teeth
and stretch and strain
will I attain such a goal?

will I ever be strong again?
will I ever be brave?
If I set my face
and I raise my chin
will I dare to come out of the cave?

will I ever be useful again?
will I ever serve the cause I believe?
If I penitent crawl
and recant it all
will the powers yet grant a reprieve?

will I ever be normal again?
will I ever come close?
if I paint my face blank
and sing the same tune
will I strike a convincing pose?

will I ever belong again?
did I ever belong before?
we are born in the like
of the God spurned and killed
and our souls with each other still war

will I ever be real again?
no – not any more real than this
for I breathe in the atoms
of rocks and of waves
and the wind that stirred the abyss

oh, Christ of the whole
the ravaged, yet real
your used flesh and cast aside bones
your sick’ning death warns
of our terrible selves
and yet, reconciles all it owns

all you assumed
is somehow redeemed
in this murderous plot of deceit?
Can our streams of bitterly
acidly tears
no longer sting but pour sweet?

Yes – when shed for another’s pain
singing laments lacrymose –
of those locked out and locked up and locked in
those crushed and crunched in cathedrals of spin
those non-conforming non-compus non-grata
enigmatically ensconced in statistics and data
those not on the black and white-pink or blue end
those on the spectrum where the colours and categories blend
those invisible, vulnerable, valuable freaks
ignored or condemned when culture speaks –

If such sweet tears upon your cheeks stain
they be shed like Christ’s blood, for those.


Repenting on Trinity Sunday – a thousand bad kids talks and other terrible ‘trinitarian’ sins

June 15, 2014


God beyond our imaginings and present to us, more near than we know,

We repent of reducing you to an idea.

We repent of breaking the second commandment.

We repent of calling you ‘like’ anything you have made

like an apple, an egg, a triangle, 
like ice,

like a cord of three strands, like a ponytail*

We repent of these thousand terrible ‘children’s talk’ object lessons.

We repent of our great sin – objectifying you.

We repent this day in which we see how our theology forms us:

 as we have brazenly objectified God,

so we have issued ourselves with license to objectify others.

We rejoice in the deliverance from binary locks

that your trinitarian self brings our imaginations,

and yet there is still much to repent.

We repent of our mis-shapen doctrines,

pressed from tri-level politics:

Our hierarchies, our patriarchies,

our ecclesial castes, our idealised family structures.

We repent of the elite Father,

merchant middle-class Son,

transient slave Spirit.

We repent of all the times we have said

‘Trinity is a hard thing to understand’

and added another stumbling block before one another,

before our children,

implying that they should understand you

and yet not offering the faith that they can,

as if you had not your very self already revealed.

We repent of making of you an intellectual challenge,

that we might feel clever,

of pretending you are a science to be measured like stars

and hypothesised like philosophy –

and then all your complexity reduced again

to five minutes of thinking about an orange.

We repent of forsaking scripture.

We repent of abandonning the stories you have given us

and replacing them with points and propositions

and proofs and prolegomena.

We repent of abandonning the stories

in which you entwine your call, your questions, your challenge,

your care,
 your suffering, your solidarity and your otherness

perfectly and accessibly.

Let us not forsake who you are – real, revealed and revealing still.

Let is not forsake true trinitarian life in you.

Through our repentance show us doorways to living truly:

let us find and know and follow your trinity

in doing justice, loving mercy and walking humbly.

Let us find and know and follow your trinity in faith, hope and love

* Yes, there really is someone who has attempted to explain the trinity with ponytail. Obviously, I don’t recommend it.


Resurrection Beauty

April 22, 2014


all beauty breaks forth

breaks the force of containment

contains the force of life

and bursts out in brilliance

at first light

at first too bright,

too beautiful

for our eyes

our brains cannot bear it

neither beauty nor the truth

the empty case

is all we see

as we but blink and stare

we cannot see

at first what is –

we don’t see

our eyes fall upon it

not as what it is in reality

in beauty

but only as

not what we expected

in negativity

how prone we are

to see less than

what is real

the young man prophesies

‘you will not see beauty here’

go to your homes,

to your beaches

in your labours

to your towns

in your isolation

to your roads

in your conversation

to your hiding places

in your fear

to your tables

in your breaking bread

and there

all beauty will break forth

will break the force of your containment

containing the force of life

pouring forth upon you

and pouring you out

back out on to the road

out of the boat

out to the mountains

out of your doubt

all beauty breaking forth

in resurrection returns

bidding you look again

bidding you see

not the shadow, the chasm,

the cave, the cove

but he


in your ordinary

beauty defined in love

verified by wounds


Between Ugliness and Beauty

April 19, 2014

This year for Lent I gave up beauty.

I’m a vegan, so giving up meat or dairy or chocolate is a non-event for me.

About 10 years ago, I took a vow of simplicity in regards to my wardrobe and personal grooming, so wearing black and no makeup are also my regular disciplines.

Reichert, Crucifixion vii, 1991

Reichert, Crucifixion vii, 1991

The straight-forward obvious Lenten fasts don’t make much impact. While I was puzzling over what to give up for Lent, one cheeky fellow traveller suggested I might give up discipline and self denial.

But this year I gave up beauty. Not being beautiful, but observing and paying attention to beauty.

Of course, it is impossible to remove all beauty from the environment. But I have closed my eyes and my heart to it as an intentional focus for this season. And I have taken up a text book on ugliness, and studied it throughout this season, forcing my eyes upon and filling my mind with the images of the grotesque, the unseemly, the plain and unbecoming,the tragic, the macabre and the repulsive.

I took Umberto Eco’s book ‘On Ugliness’ as my study guide, and meditated on the art and literature it offers as examples. It hasn’t been pleasant.

Grunewald’s Christ covered in thorns has mesmerised me – almost to the point of a strange comfort. The ugliness of extreme pain, of every nerve pinched and every node pressured and every surface of skin scoured and scourged raw, the soul stretched to snapping point and the rising floods of acid poison that turn a tide of torture.

Grunewald, The Crucifixion (detail), 1515

Grunewald, The Crucifixion (detail), 1515


I have drunk in not only many of the ugly images of the crucifixion, but also the repulsive gallery of our nation’s injustices and the appalling panorama of global poverty and power. An acrid stomach-churning view.

And I have taken up that other text book of the grotesque and terrifying – the Bible; reading its texts of despair, lamentation, depravity. It gilds no lily, but tells it like it is. Don’t try to follow it as a self improvement manual or a better homes and gardens guide.

Those who know me well realise that this is no shallow ‘toe in the water; simulation game for me. I have known plenty of life’s ugliness both from within and without. A gruelling pilgrimage lined with mysteriously placed gifts, choosing life, choosing love, choosing beauty has come in the form of a dare to stop and open a gift in the dark chasms of pain.

So this ‘ugliness fast’ is a retracing of a path. The path of following Jesus. The path to redemption. The path of grace and courage to look at people and landscapes and actions that are unpalatable, unattractive, ugly with the  scars, ugly with hate, ugly with fear, ugly with pain, ugly with threats. The call to ugliness starts us on a path of looking at evil and not making excuses. If I can’t do that, I can’t self examine. If I can’t look at evil without papering over or flinching a concession, I can’t repent. And I can’t forgive. Just like Jesus I have to be able to look at evil and recognise it. To say ‘Forgive them; they don’t know what they’re doing…but I do; and I ask forgiveness on their behalf.’

About 10 years ago I walked a similar path in looking at my own face. In my early 30s I was still a compulsive self-harmer, drawing blood almost as often as I caught my reflection in the mirror, the urge to deface my own visage overwhelming any rational logic.  I shaved my head. And I set about the task of actually being able to look myself in the face. In our selfie-obsessed culture, some might find this hard to believe. Or perhaps we realise that selfies are a way of not really looking ourselves in the eye, but filtering ourselves through the ‘safety’ of a lens – a digital shield between us and reality.

It took two years of this spiritual discipline of shaving my head for me to really find it comfortable to look at my own face. And then one day I realised I had stopped harming myself. I couldn’t remember the last time I’d pointed the blade at myself. After five years (I know, five years; miracle healing doesn’t mean ‘quick-fix’)  I had come to love my bumps and wrinkles, my enormous teeth and wonky eyebrows, and also my fiery eyes and the smile that I can’t stop monopolising my jaw. I stopped shaving my head, and I have let my hair grow out wildly however it wants, as a symbol of the freedom I found in accepting what was in the mirror as neither ugly nor beautiful, but good. Along this path of staring at ugliness, I looked squarely at a lot of ugly characters lurking behind my eyes. I learned not to look away, not to flinch, but to fix their gaze and say ‘Forgive them: they don’t know what they’re doing’ as well. This Lent has retraced those steps, and now the discipline of eyes filled with ugliness comes soon to an end.


jarClose to the end of Lent a friend sent me an image which heralded the impending end of my ugliness fast. It was a beautiful image, and yet it embodied the seam of beauty through the contours of brokenness.’Full of gold that radiates through only because of the brokenness’ was the tag line that accompanied it.

Beauty – even as I whole heartedly embrace it again – will always be this kind of beauty. A beauty framed in flaws. A beauty that can only be viewed by those willing to look at broken things.

Let it start tomorrow with looking at a grave stone cracked open, golden gleaming light pouring forth.

Let my eyes flicker open again and see beauty anew.



Good friday confusion

April 18, 2014


this bloody man

this strung-up, beaten,
defeated,leaking, howling man

his death row, death-throe gibberish still confusing me:
‘forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing’
how can that be good-friday theology?

Don’t you mean ‘forgive them because

they have confessed and repented

with a contrite heart

and a willing obedience to change their behaviour

in conformity with your holy laws?’

Over all the comos
you bleed all over us
your boundaries all torn and transgress’d
quicker than we can mop you up
you make more bleeding mess

if you are god and human
if you are innocent but convicted guilty
if you are manly yet ravaged like a defenceless woman
if you are wise yet inarticulate
if you are abused yet forgive
if you are holy yet god-forsaken

are not all our sortings, all our categories,
all our wrongs and rights made strangely to bleed into one another?

the way a dead-end, the truth is belied,
and the greatest of these – the life – has died
serious scribes joke and jeer
atoning priests accuse
passers by just poke and peer
see how Romans deal with Jews?

the sky is black in height of day
the dead rise from their graves
the executor salutes the damned
one bandit bandies brave
one thief in paradise is sent
and Son of God is hell-bent


Who are the faithful?

March 22, 2014


Here at Multivocality, I am interested in exploring different voices, not all of them necessarily my own. It stretches me, in terms of intellect, compassion, imagination and vision as I seek the kingdom of God, to try and explore things from perspectives that are not the ‘party line’. In short, I’d rather write some things that might be arguable ‘wrong’ but thereby grow in understanding of  ways to express truth.

I have been thinking recently about how people who think of themselves as the faithful might actually seem like they lack faith to those who are typically identified as ‘unbelievers’, because of the christian culture reflex of trying to assert a positivist position of certitude. This little piece is an adventure in looking through a different lens, of ‘faith-flipping’ and asking ‘what would actual “Faith” look like?’

There they go – the every-day desperate ones.

Desperate to win, desperate to assert. Clamouring for a voice, Struggling against the sense that they are going under, and flailing about in an effort to keep head above the water. To keep a profile, and to keep safe borders. All that’s been built, all that has been worked for is under threat and and must be protected, maintained, buttressed with greater force. More space, more territory, more attention, more of the market share must be acquired. Launching new initiatives with the right hand and anchoring their right to success and entitlement to win in traditions of a privileged history.

There they go. Everyday, the faithless existence of desperation. They preach, they blog, they publish, they petition, they promote. They talk much of God, they are scandalised at efforts to righteousness, yet hammer hard the need to earn faith, have faith, invest in the kingdom, sounding like desperate economists of industry. They have nailed the market, and they have just about crucified teh gospel.

But look there.

There they go, in the midst, the everyday faithful.

Those who throw themselves defenceless upon life as it is, without a claim of authority or certainty. They say ‘I don’t know..’ and wonder a little. They say ‘Could it be…perhaps’ and keep listening. Or they switch off the distant argument and choose instead to love what is before them. They have no system, not mechanism, no proof, beyond the breath they have drawn in and expelled with a sigh for grief of a lived one gone, or a huff of exertion to the task, or a kiss of blessing over the forehead of their child, or a exhalation centring the body  in the deep peace of sustained breathing, or a fittingly silent prayer of solidarity for the voiceless.

They may barely know. They may barely know anything. They may barely know the name of God, and yet live entirely dependent upon faith that the world will keep turning, that each new sunrise will come without their effort, and face it in humble gratitude. They may barely know of the unseen kingdom and yet yearn for its justice and peace.

They do not know, but they question. They do not know, but they live what they can on the terms of faith, in hope, on a line cast into the depths beyond sight, with patience and time yet to speak its vindication.

They have no doctrine of inerrancy, infallibility; they know too well that such a reef, though pure it may be in itself, once looked upon by human eyes is subject to all manner of clouded cataract, unnerved glaucoma, misshapen astigmatism. All they hold to is held without ambit claim or assertive normativity. Just by faith.

Who are the faith-full? Who, really, walks by faith?

How might I walk in faith in the things that I faith are good and beautiful and true?

I have thrown all my wagers upon the God of Jesus.

How will living be a faith in God?

Are not the faithful those who have given up the no risk, nailed down, watertight, contracts of safety and certainty?

Are not the faithful those who have built arks and escaped to wander in deserts, hungry and thirsty like Noah and Moses? Are  not the faithful those who fall pregnant in old age or in virginal youth and live as if such a thing is of the living God – a blessing, not a curse, like Sarah and Mary?

Are not the faithful those who, secure in the traditions of their ancestors, accept blindness and disorientation on the roadside and recover to sleep with the enemy, like Paul?

This is not to eschew intellect – but to stir a faith-ing intellect that searches beyond the too-easy logic.

And not to eschew commitment – but to embrace a faith-ing commitment that signs up to love, not just to like-mindedness.

Who, then are the faithful?

“When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”