Wednesday, 27 July 2016

Ruined: A book review

I met Ruth Everhart last spring when I hosted her in Scotland for a few days before leading a retreat on Pilgrimage, based on her book: Chasing the Divine in the Holy Land.
We had fun exploring parts of the west coast of Scotland before heading to the east coast, where the retreat took place.
I was pleased to receive an advance copy of Ruth's book for review.
Ruined is a moving account of rape and robbery perpetrated on Ruth and the other women she shared a house with while she was at college and the rippling effects that brutal crime had on all of them.
Ruth tells her story with clarity, describing the rape and its aftermath in detail.
Although she does not gloss over the details of that terrifying night, she tells it in a way that enables the reader to remain engaged.
Brought up in a sheltered, Christian home, attending a Christian college, the horrific crime dredged up for Ruth all manner of questions about the presence and purpose of God.
Ruth describes, with candour, how the crime affected not just those violated but also their relationships with each other and with their family, friends, and college community.
Her telling is insightful with flashes of humour, as she describes some of her more reckless actions and love interests in the wake of the trauma.
Ruth's honesty is refreshing, particularly when she recounts her struggle with racism, reacting to the colour of the perpetrators.
Much of the sometimes simple faith with which she had grown up was challenged and pulled up by the roots as she dealt with her experience but Ruth emerges with strength and love and a faith that is all the more robust for having being forged and reframed under such a traumatic spotlight.
There are so many themes vying for attention in this memoir that more than one reading is required to explore those.
I am grateful to Ruth for allowing such darkness to be brought into the light, for sharing her pain filled story and her fight with faith and her discovery through all that of the sometimes impotent God who walks with us in the shadows.

Sunday, 24 July 2016

Big, Hairy, Audacious Prayer

Luke 11:2-4
Jesus said to them, “When you pray, say:
Father, hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come.
Give us each day our daily bread.
And forgive us our sins,
for we ourselves forgive everyone indebted to us.
And do not bring us to the time of trial.”

Lord, teach us to pray...
Teach us to pray with abandon,
not to limit our requests 
but to pray big
for the impossible.
Lord teach us to pray...
Teach us to pray with audacity
not avoiding the evil that stalks our world
but to pray into hatred and violence
for your kingdom to break out.
Lord, teach us to pray...
Teach us to pray with courage
Courage that names injustice,
calls it out, admits our complicity
and prays for lasting change.
Lord, teach us to pray...
Teach us to pray with conviction
that your will
is for love and compassion
to flow like a river
that the prayers of all whom you love
are heard and answered.
Lord teach us to pray...
Teach us to pray with abandon, with audacity, with courage and with conviction.
Lord, teach us to pray.

Saturday, 16 July 2016

Called for this time

Luke 10:38-42

Jesus Visits Martha and Mary
Now as they went on their way, he entered a certain village, where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to what he was saying. But Martha was distracted by her many tasks; so she came to him and asked, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her then to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.”

Martha and Mary

Martha and Mary
Sisters who welcomed Jesus
Martha by offering hospitality,
working tirelessly to ensure he had everything he needed
Martha - Distracted by all her tasks, the text tells us.
Yet wasn't it Mary who was the distracted one?
Distracted from all that she'd been brought up to do
by what the hour demanded.
Mary distracted by seeing before her
a man with angst and passion written all over him
A man whose course was steering him inexorably
into the hands of the authorities
who were already out to get him
Authorities, violent and corrupt
who couldn't risk Jesus
being let loose any longer.
Martha did what she knew.
Mary did what she saw
and took the opportunity
to cherish him
and be cherished by him
while there was still time.
And perhaps today
we are called
from what we know
from what is socially acceptable
to do what is right for this time -
To fly in the face of convention
To welcome the stranger
To speak up for the oppressed 
To act irrationally in our compassion 
And to bring about
the justice of God.

Friday, 15 July 2016

Eyes of the heart

Ephesians 1:17-19
I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know God, so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which God has called you, what are the riches of God's glorious inheritance among the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of God's power for us who believe, according to the working of God's great power.

What is the hope?
What are the riches?
Where is the greatness of God's power?
Gifts not discerned by human sight but by the eyes of the heart being opened?
For me, right now, that feels like the morning after the night before, when you've had one too many, and you find yourself opening your eyes really gingerly, trying to limit the onslaught of pain you know you are about to experience.
Or that feeling, some time after the onset of a migraine. When you've taken all the medication that you can and you've managed to catch some sleep in a darkened room. And then you begin to awaken, frightened to open your eyes to the light in case your head reacts with more vicious pounding.
Or the pain that comes and settles on your chest, like a scheming cat, refusing to move, refusing to be cast aside. Just sitting there, a dead weight, restricting breathing, refusing to be ignored.
It actually feels much more like grief than any enlightenment.
What is this physical and spiritual pain assaulting my senses, refusing to be ignored? Bubbling up in inconvenient times and places?
How can I unlock it's mystery and relieve the relentless pressure it exerts - a pressure that, for stretches of time, can be contained - until it can't. 
What I have perceived - and I think it's helpful - is that this grief or ache or longing, or whatever I choose to call it, is not subject to a quick fix. And it won't just slope away. It is demanding attention,claiming space and time and discernment. And, while it is sore, it is not something to be feared, rather something by which, in some strange way to be excited. For it promises growth.
And enlightenment, when it comes, promises a glimpse, beyond the veil, a glimpse of the Unknown.
And I am impatient to get there. Impatient for the next stage of the journey. For the not yet to become the now.
But neither frustration nor impatience will impinge on God's timing or the Spirit's wisdom which is always just right.
And so I sit with the heaviness, that one dead weight in the midst of so much light. I sit and wait on the eyes of my heart being fully opened to properly see the hope, the riches and the greatness of God's power. 
And I give thanks for those who sit awhile with me, bearing the weight, sharing the load, praying for the good timing and wisdom of God in the things of the Kingdom.
Open the eyes of my heart.

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