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Archive for the ‘Bear’s Thoughts!’ Category

Last year I really liked having my 12 Point Plan! So I’ve made an 8 Point Plan  for 2013, see below! And I’ve got a word for the year: RECOVERY. Recovering the image of God within me, in others, in the world, in my experiences. And, continuing with my CBT- kicking OCD’s ass.

1. Travel somewhere outside Europe. We’re going to Ecuador!!!! YAY!!!!!!!!!!!

2. Make the Drones Quilt Project (dronesquilt.wordpress.com) a success. Make it something meaningful, that changes things.

3. Run a half marathon. ARGH!

4. Finish raising £2000 for Send a Cow- you can help! http://www.justgiving.com/Jessica-Sends-A-Farmyard

5. Keep the yoga up.

6. Find a German conversation partner.

7. Shop one hundred percent ethically. There’s no excuse to not do so! Tune in next week for Spectacled Bear’s Ethical Shopping Guide 🙂

8. Continue with Latin so that maybe I can do Latin GCSE (or AS Level?!?!?) in Jan 2014.

Wishing everyone who stumbles on my blog a happy and blessed New Year.

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This year I had some counselling to talk about a variety of things that were troubling me. It was one of the best things I’ve ever done and in the end it got me transferred to Cognitive Behaviour Therapy and diagnosed with OCD. One of the things that featured and still features quite regularly in the therapeutic dialogue is my time in the conservative evangelical culture. My time  there was very difficult and very damaging; one day, my counsellor asked me if I thought anything good had come out of being in that environment and I said no, nothing. I couldn’t see anything good.

Lately (and having read this: http://www.elizabethesther.com/2012/12/gifts-of-fundamentalis.html), I’ve been thinking, crippling though much of that culture was, maybe God  has bought some great gifts out of that period in my life.

1. A love and knowledge of Scripture: I can quote chapter and verse and I developed the habit of always going to the Bible first if I’m struggling. Now I have an understanding of interpretation and read the Bible safe in God’s love, rather than as an instruction manual, but the early work that the evangelical conservative church did in emphasising the importance of immersing oneself in God’s Word is a real blessing. In fact, turning to Scripture helped me leave my old church.

2. A belief that young people can play a meaningful role: Our youth group motto was “Let no one look down on you because you are young”, I served in prayer ministry with adults, sang in a worship band, gave talks to other young people, ran my college CU and helped with Sunday School. The church believed I had gifts right now and they wanted to use them; no one ever said I was too young to do something – I was encouraged. I want my new found communities to know this, and to value young people the same way, and too empower them.

3.  A belief that church wasn’t just for Sundays: I was there every day of the week. I found this horribly unhealthy because I had nothing outside it, and when I left I felt un-anchored and lonely. BUT, I learnt to be really involved and committed, to not just be a Sunday Christian, to look for opportunities to serve others throughout the week.

4. Generosity: Generosity was restricted – to palatable causes, to approved ideas – but where it existed, it flourished. People not only gave freely to the collection-plate, but regularly opened their homes to other members of the congregation who were suffering, someone paid for me to go on Christian camp, I think the church even provided free counselling.

5. I love to talk about Jesus and my relationship with Him. The progressive church can be abashed about talking about the Son of God, His love for them and their love for Him. I’m not! Conservative evangelicalism taught me to be open and honest, to say when asked that I love God, I believe in Jesus, I believe He is my saviour, redeemer and Lord of the world. I want my church to speak like this to one another, to share stories of God’s love and how He’s changed our lives, not to join together for worship and then make Jesus the unreferenced elephant in the room the rest of the time.

God is at work everywhere, even in places and situations that are not His will, that make Him weep and mourn. It took me a little while to see what He’d given me and don’t mistake me, I don’t think for a nano second that God wanted me to suffer so that I could learn something. I was in a place where bad things happened not because He wished it. But, He managed to find the good in that experience; the light, the blessings and the holy.

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At Christmas we celebrate the time that Jesus Christ came among us, left the glories, joys and love of heaven for the trials, sufferings and pain of life on earth. We celebrate the endless love of God that for us, He gladly “pitched His tent” with us.

The historical incarnation, 2000 years ago, reminds us that Jesus is as willing as ever to dwell in and with us, as comforter, saviour and friend. Christmas is a time of re-invitation, of asking God afresh to walk with us, of resting in His love and Grace.

We celebrate Christ coming to speak of justice and truth. Christmas is a painful reminder that 2000 years later, we live in a world as corrupt, unjust and sinful as the one that Jesus inhabited. It is a time of re-consecration to proclaiming mercy and justice, to feeding the hungry, to clothing the naked, to visiting the prisoner, to acts of charity and grace, and to speaking the truth of the Gospel, the truth of God’s love.

***

Let us pray for a renewed zeal in following the way of the King of justice and peace.

May we weep with those who weep, with those who are alone, afraid and dying.

May we once more, invite the compassionate and ever gracious Son of God into our hearts,

He who has always delighted in be amongst and alongside us.

Amen

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It’s not always ok to give yourself a break.

It’s not ok to tell yourself you deserve your favourite chocolate snack when its been made by slaves or children, sold into indentured bondage.

It’s not ok to say a tacky magazine is alright just this once, it still exploits women, still sells young men and women a false  idea of gender, relationships and “perfection”.

It’s not ok to keep a tight rein on what you hand to the beggar on the street but indulge yourself after a week at work, imagine how hard the week has been for someone with no house, no food, no friends. No hope.

***

It’s ok to practice self-care. It’s essential. God-ordained. But self-care doesn’t come at the cost of the detriment of others  welfare or survival. If your self-care exploits another, treads on another, ignores another, it is blemished and tainted. Our responsibility to ourselves  extends to others. Our worth in God’s eyes is beyond our wildest dreams, imaginations, His love for us is generous, radical and unconditional. And He feels that way about others, everyone we meet is His precious child. We must love ourselves and then love others. I pray that had I been trafficked into Europe for sex work aged 15, that those who profess to love God would refuse to subsidise my oppression by buying a pirated DVD, on the grounds that supermarket prices are prohibitive.

Our decisions seem small because we are used to having so much, so easily. But they can mean everything.

***

Lord of creation, maker of heaven and earth,

May I never have so much money, that I allow it to sit in a bank, accruing, when there are those, just feet away who haven’t enough money to eat.

May I never have a house so large, that beds sit empty whilst your children cower in the shelter of railways bridges, hidden under cardboard boxes, unseen.

May I never wander the corridors of art galleries, theatres, music halls, so nonchalantly that I forget those who languish in the corner of a prison cell, denied access even to Your Word.

When I eat, may I never forget the hungry.

When I drink, may I never forget the thirsty.

When I sleep, may I never forget the anxiously awake.

When I am joyful, may I never forget the sorrowing.

As I touch freedom, never allow me to forget the slave.

Amen

***

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Sunday is Remembrance Day here in the UK. At school, tomorrow would have been the day we were all shipped off to the local war memorial to sing O God Our Help In Ages Past and I, as the token Christian, was asked to read the lesson from Romans. This Sunday,  I will be singing in a performance of Howells’ Requiem and listening to readings from the Bible at the church where I worked and worship. But this year is also the year that I find myself working for a peacemaking charity, campaigning for an end to war and the adoption of a philosophy of non-violence. I still think a “day to remember” is a good thing, but I worry that we’re remembering the wrong things.

War isn’t glamorous and it isn’t noble. We dress it up in uniform and ceremony but we can’t hide from reality. War is destruction, slaughter and death. Soldiers don’t do drills on the front line, they shoot people. They don’t troop the colour or form the neat solemn lines we see in Remembrance Day parades, they kill. Don’t mistake me, I think the British army is full of brave and honourable men and women, who demonstrate huge amounts of courage in the face of adversity. But that doesn’t let us escape the fact that armed conflict is a bloody and chaotic business. We must remember that.

We are also stuck in a place, sold to us in no small part by the media, that tells us that our forces are somehow different to the forces we fight. We’re asked to remember the sacrifice of our soldiers as if they were a different substance to the men and women they confront. This is untrue and unjust. We fight other humans. An anti-war poster in the 1930’s read “Mothers, don’t let your sons kills other mother’s sons”. There are people in this world perpetuating great evil, and one of those evils is war, we must always remember that whether or not we believe we have right on our side, when we participate in war we participate in that evil. We are no different to the other side. Their fighting is no more horrific than ours, and ours no more clean. The death of their soldiers is as keen a loss as the death of ours, and as many weep for them as weep for us. Their lives are worth as much. We have to remember this as well, the lives of all those whom war has stolen.

It is not only our soldiers who die, who are repatriated with ceremony and grief, who are brought back heroes, but the soldiers of those we fight too, who lie shot and dismembered, as dead as those in a coffin in England, honoured with hymns and silence.

And we must  never forget those whom war sweeps along, unasked, unwanted and unwelcome. Those children and civilians who are killed asleep in their beds, running down the street or those who are burnt, raped and mutilated. Those who never asked to be at war, who never asked for fighting and who never wanted to witness the pain and destruction of violent conflict.

And mostly we must never forget that the violence of war grows ever more terrifying and ever more sinister. Gone are the days when soldiers fought face to face, each equal in pain and misery. Those days were truly awful. But now, we are content to confine that experience to the enemy alone, launching drones safe from our army bases at home and killing civilians and militants alike, reduced to dots of thermo-recognition on a screen.

Remember, the enemy is human. The enemy are no different to us.

**
Please check out my current work project that petitions the government for an end to the use of armed drones- dronesquilt.wordpress.com

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I don’t think it’s super blog friendly to post my entire Sunday sermon and frankly, I would be impressed/worried/confused if people were keen to read that post but gist wise- here goes…

***

On Sunday, I preached on Job. I talked about my interpretation of the passage as an allegory about non-attachment. About how I saw Job’s loss of wealth, health and friends as a story about the normal pattern of life, where everything is impermanent rather than a cautionary and terrifying tale of God’s permission to Satan to destroy everything he valued.  Job was attached to things that couldn’t sustain his true identity because they, like all of us and all our material property, were transient. When he refocussed on God, he was able to enjoy things again, his latter years were more joyful than his former, because he placed impermanent things in their proper place, below the eternal everlasting love of God.

“When Job turns and finds God he realises that true meaning is found there, in the only things that is unchanging and eternal…  Of course, we call the root of suffering sin, but isn’t attachment so often the cause of sin? Attachment to money causes greed, attachment to power causes corruption. As well as causing sin, attachment also causes us fear, desolation and anxiety… In recognising that all is impermanent, that all things can or do pass away, we see that God’s love for us does not. In the face of all that is changing and dying, God remains and His love remains. The question for us is where are we finding our identity?.. I am reminded of God’s promise to us that He has plans to prosper us and not to harm us…”

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As those of you who read this blog regularly know, I set myself some challenges known as the “12 Point Plan” this year. I am going to fail horrendously at quite a few of them but I have managed to write a couple of poems, most of them are too terrible to ever be viewed by another sentient creature but here’s one… I call it The Seventh Plague cos that’s suitably pretentious and all Biblical.

***

One night

as I lay in bed

waiting for my sweetheart to come home,

I thought I heard death scrabbling at my apartment door.

I was unsure

if the gentle scratching

was the sound of my lover

or death,

ready.

I thought

I’ve only just learnt how to hear music,

to listen without reaching our for something to stop the sound of Puccini or the violin

getting too close to my racing heartbeat.

I thought

I’ve only just learnt to be human again.

I hoped that death would pass over my door

with its rust-coloured blood stained mark

just a little while longer.

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