Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Changes are a-foot

Over the next two weeks several things are about to happen:

1) I am running a marathon on Sunday.
I honestly have no idea how this is going to pan out as I have never run 26 miles before and I'm pretty knackered after 18, but I am going to attempt it at any rate.

The training has been long and arduous but there have been some big benefits. I have learnt that I need time to think and just be and running is a good way to take this time to think. I have also learnt how psychological running is. My mental state has a massive impact on how I run and if that's the case with running then it must be so with most other things too. This sounds like common sense but I don't think I've seen it so clearly before.

This is also true the other way around running helps me improve my mental state. If I give my brain time to unwind while running I can cope better with stress when it comes.

This is not to say I have been a happy runner throughout my preparation, feeling the limits my body has reached, going out in the cold and the dark to run when all instincts tell you it's bonkers. That's all been hard.

That all being said I have also felt so much support. Mark has worked around my runs which is no small thing if you are out for 3 hours. He's looked after kids organised fundraising events and planned and measured routs. Friends have sponsored me, worked hard at events and backed me even though they think it's nuts. I have learnt that I am not as isolated as I have assumed myself to be.That has been gift.

2) We are getting some chickens
This is very exciting. I have really loved starting to grow stuff in the garden and keeping some chickens seems a really good next step. Gardening seems to give me some sense of rhythm and spirituality in a way that I haven't managed through prayer in the 'regular' way. After looking at a million different chicken houses I have finally found a model that will fit and in two weeks I can go collect our new pets.

3) Foster Children are arriving!!
They will arrive next Monday. This is huge and is after a years journey through the system.Two little people that will become part of our family for a time. It's exciting and also frankly scares the crap out of me. We have a pretty good family, I think. The plan was to share this and give a home and hospitality to other children. Right now though, I'm just scared.

The care of these little people will coincide with my working hours going down, so life patterns will change. The fear of this throws me back onto prayer which is no bad thing. I am excited and scared all in one go. Lets see what these new personalities bring to us.

Lots of new things then. Lets see how it all goes......

Thursday, 31 March 2011


In February we received a call from a detention centre about a young girl called Blessing. She is 16 and has been trafficked into the country. By the time the call came she had been moved to the third detention centre while her case was being handled.

I made contact with her and over the next couple of weeks she came to our groups and into our homes. The home office said she is 24 ( that way she is deportable) so she was waiting for a formal age assessment.

Over the two weeks she told me that her mum died when she was 4 and her father left her when she was 5. From then on she had been on her own until she got into prostitution. She had then been trafficked through her Madame into the UK. She was picked up at the airport by the boarder agency. Three detention centres later I met her. She was pleased to be there on the whole and was hopeful about how things would turn out. The only thing that seemed to bother her was money. She had brought in with her $700 for the traffickers. That money terrified her.

Blessing was due to come to my house for a meal on a Saturday in February. She never made it. She disappeared on the Friday night. None of her things went with her, nothing was taken from her room, except the $700. It’s likely she was picked up by the traffickers.

There have been no campaigns for Blessing, no news reports or searches. She is not that important it seems. The police also said that if they heighten concern the traffickers may kill her as she is very disposable. In the end though she would probably be killed in any case.

So we are all going on as normal. It seems you don’t have to scratch at our systems and services very hard to find that our justice is but a veneer. Thin and selective in what it covers. Our underbelly is readily exposed but we don’t really want to think about it because that would make us feel nervous.

Blessing at 16 is now either serving as a prostitute or is already dead. Apart from me and you no one seems to know anything about her.

Thursday, 16 December 2010

Freedom for Gossip

I am really conflicted. I want to like Julian Assange and all that he's doing , except I find what he's doing so valueless that I am really struggling to applaud him or back him in any way.

The USA's desire to 'get him' is sickening. In fact general government reactions to him would be laughable if it wasn't so scary. At the same time though, we seem to be applauding him as a kind of bastion for free speech. We are starting to to see him as a champion of a cause when really all he seems to have done is put out a steady stream of sensitive gossip.

Looking at what has come out from wikileaks it is just information that will make it harder for those in power to speak well to each other. As a result of what he's published it's likely that countries will treat conversations with each other more suspiciously and cautiously. More like talking to a journalist than another diplomat or government bod. This can only further cloud and mask plain speech. It's not a gain. It seems to me that this potential loss of plain speech is also not offset by any gains from the 'revelations'.

What do we now know that we didn't before? Prince Andrew was a bit of a prat? There has been different agendas between David Cameron and the Afghan president, Hamid Karzai? Not ground breaking, impressive or worthwhile really.

I can't go along with accolades for him that shout him as 'the savior of freedom' as I saw one commentator on You Tube say. And yet..... and yet.... The governments are out of whack here and we must speak up.

Lets just be clear what we're speaking up for. Freedom is the thing we are concerned about isn't it? The right to speak freely and well. Gary Goldhammer points out quite rightly though that, 'that transparency without judgement is gossip, not journalism.' Making the point that although Assange say publishing improves transparency this is not always the case. Judgement, analysis and care also have a place.

In the end I suspect I will sign petitions and object to the way Assange is being treated but that is because it is wrong for the bigger guys to adopt the position of a bully when things don't go their way. We need to make sure that it is never OK to be stood on just because you become a nuisance. Our governments should be able to deal with Assange maturely and with 'due process' and we need to shout at them loudly and with force if they don't.

I don't really think though that I can applaud or give thanks for Assange. Gossip is just gossip at the end of the day.

Thursday, 9 December 2010

God Bless Halloween

Yes I know I'm seasonally out of sync, but Like I said in a previous post, things got busy. I have wanted to post on Halloween since, well, Halloween. I have said previously that I don't really get why groups of Christians have such an adverse reaction to it. It always seems a bit, er, petty to me really.

This year I heard people say the same things, 'it celebrates evil' or, 'I really dislike the Americanism of trick or treating'.


I have never come across a parent who, while dressing their child in whatever monstrous costume, imbibes the message of, 'yes we are doing this so we can learn how good it is to hate and do bad things'.

Instead when we dress our children or , indeed ourselves, we caricature evil on Halloween, we make it ridiculous and laughable, the monstrous becomes less powerful rather than more powerful. As for the 'Americanisms', there is for me, a touch of lazy racism in this. Because it is American it does not make it bad and for parents to accompany children as they visit neighbours and friends and receive sweets; well that seems to me to be a rare moment of building and establishing community links. In sort, a good thing.

As for Christian presence in this, well I think it's ripe for the taking. All Hallows Eve is our festival. Why not own it and cash in on the possibilities of the cultural practices around it?

This year we put on a Halloween party at church. Children from the neighbourhood were invited. They dressed up, we did gory crafts, we went trick or treating. We also took the time to have story; our stories. Our trick or treating was to an old peoples home where they were thrilled to see the kids.

The result. Our Beeline group (which is an overtly Christian group for children aged 6-11) gained 6 new children and our mums and todds group gained around 15 new children. Halloween was a blessing. I reckon God is in most things if you look. God Bless Halloween

It's been a while

I logged in today and saw it's been too long since I last stopped by. The reason is simple. Winter has come and with it the busy arrived.

The shelter we run has needed some prep and then we have been open for the last 2 weeks straight.

I am always amazed at the effect the shelter has on us. I am always amazed at the volunteers that come out again and again. There has been something about the shelter that touches people enough for it to work.

This year we have had a lot of Eastern Europeans with us. They have 'no recourse to public funds'. That means that if they are not working then the majority cannot claim benefits or housing. I have enjoyed getting to know some of them this past 2 weeks. It's been quite the privilege. They are full of fun and are slightly bewildered at the volunteers helping them. I invited some of them to Christmas dinner at the church and the reply was 'we'd love to, it's the best place'.

I would agree. What we do is inspiring people to come and work along side us, volunteers are now starting to just turn up. Not just for the shelter but for other stuff as well. New folk are passing by and are really heartened by our approach. Businesses are giving things and this year some of those that came to the shelter in the first year have decorated for , gardened and supported others in the community in need.

You know sometimes, its all a little Acts 2. Now and again there is a little bit of a sense that the vision we have held and are trying to hold, the vision of truly being church, welcoming all and taking Jesus very, very seriously is in God's keeping.

I am always astounded by how hard following Christ is. It is so very 'other'. Amidst all the struggle though there is a lifting and a coming together. God sending followers and the vulnerable, the gifted and the wounded. The struggle will continue of course, my natural default settings are not geared to sacrifice, or patience, those are lessons that Jesus has to continually give extra tuition for. I remain though, a committed student.

Sunday, 19 September 2010

Problems with the Papacy

The Pope's visit ends today and I'm pleased.

I have been really uncomfortable with the whole thing because I don't like the Papacy much, I find the institution problematic, yet the reaction we seem to have had in Britain over his state visit has caused me to want to defend him quite robustly.

I am by nature quite argumentative, so I have had to check myself that this urge has not just been part of my natural leaning to argue that black is white. I don't really care too much if he's here or not so to feel so wound up has seemed a little... well.... pointless. Still, there's no denying it. Wound up I have been.

There are bits like the Humanist Society spending their resources on denouncing the Pope's visit for making us spend resources on him, that have made me smile at the irony. I have been slightly bewildered by the objection of his entitlement to a state visit on moral grounds by a secular body when other heads of state are readily welcomed and their morality left unquestioned.

Why is it that we object to the Pope so much anyway? I don't believe it's because he doesn't measure up morally. If we really were becoming morally aware and wanted to fight for the little guy then we could; we can. There are companies to take down, taxes to raise and invest in the poor, we can engage in any number of ways, but we don't seem to be doing a great deal of that.

Why is it then that we have objected to him so much?

I think, and this is just a guess after much pondering, that what we have seen in the reaction against Benedict 16th is really an expression of our own self delusion.

Stay with me on this. The reason I need my Christian community is because they keep me on the straight and narrow. I can't go too far off course without someone pulling me up on things. It's a painful process most of the time, but rubbing along with folks from many walks of life, striving for Jesus and letting them have a voice in the way I run my life life, holds me to Christ in a way that I cannot do on my own.

Left to my own devises I would simply lie to myself. "I am not too bad", "Many people are worse than me", "Given my circumstances anyone would have done the same". I would go on and on in delusion. "My spirituality", I would say, "is my own business, no one has the right to judge me, I do OK". To live in community with others, in the light of Christ, makes it too hard to do this. Others get to speak into you, it hurts, it heals, it's part of looking for the truth.

I think when we react against Benedict 16th turning up, we are pointing out all the ills of this religious leader so that we can relax and again make our own judgments King. If the Pope is the bad guy, we can go back to telling ourselves we are really not that bad at all. We don't need to be held to any account or to come out of our own private deliberations. The soft sell we allow ourselves can rule. "These religious types are no good, such hypocrites. I can follow my own conscience and believe my own truth". It is enticing because it's easier and lets us off the hook. It's just not very truthful.

All I can say for my own part is, I don't trust myself enough to do that. I need others to call me to account and to reveal the way, the truth and the light to me. I am very aware that I could convince myself of how right I am and how good I am if I don't allow others to have authority and community with me.

As a result, I can't, on this occasion, stand and object to Pope Benedict's visit to Britain. It would align me with too much that I find tempting.

Thursday, 9 September 2010

Self Serving Drama

Rowan William's writes, in his 'Anglican Identities', about the difficulty in theology today
How a language of faith rooted in experiences and expressions of extremity can be rendered in a bourgeois environment without self serving drama.
In as much as theology for me is often about how we work out our present story in the light of our Christian story and in the hope of our future story in Christ, this rang very true.

Although people may well find it very difficult to believe, this struggle is often something that renders me speechless. There are so many things about my Christian story coupled with my present context where often I find the language of the Christian faith simply doesn't seem to make sense. I then seem to be talking but knowing at the same time that what I'm saying is unintelligible.

What is it to speak of Jesus in a context that operates through coercion? What is it to tell a story of drama, or resurrection in a largely apathetic society? I'm not a bad speaker, but I often find myself feeling that I am overreaching the limits of what I'm able to communicate about the Jesus I love.

Actions are easier in some senses (much harder in others). We can attempt the language of grace or redemption but how much can we really communicate without trying to live it in communion and covenant with each other? We need each other to hold us to account as we strive to live with the least and look for Jesus in our context.

To live in the world but refuse to coerce, oppress or use, is excruciatingly hard and Williams is right, the temptation is to enter into self serving drama. We, instead of seeking truth, create a worship drama that satisfies our tastes and needs, both polularist and lofty alike.

If worship is to point to Jesus, if it is there to announce and celebrate him then what should it look like, and then how will we live our worship? Commitment to community, deep covenanted relationships is what I keep coming back to. It's not a popular notion. We move our setting and our community when we don't like the one we're in. Accountability sucks if it demands too much or we have to surrender our will.

To live with each other and really surrender is to make ourselves most vulnerable. Our inadequacies are highlighted our masks removed. It's in this though that we start to follow the way of Jesus and in doing that we are invited to join the divine community. In short we start to understand what the hell salvation is all about.

I would like to explain more but I feel myself reaching my limit again.

Friday, 3 September 2010

the new shibboleth

I came to this post through Chris Tilling's blog. It's a good one.