Monthly Archives: November 2014

Stranded at Sea

This is a poem I wrote earlier this year by putting Psalms 42-43 into my own words. I’m really feeling it today, and have been reading it to myself to encourage myself – so I thought I’d share it in case it resonates with you too 🙂

I thirst for You,

Like I’m stranded at sea

I thirst for You, God

Where can I find You?

These salty tears cannot quench my thirst

I’m drowning in their flood

An ocean of doubts asking

‘Where is your God?’

And I don’t know!

My heart breaks when I think of how we were

Before the flood came and swept us away

When we were so close

And You were so here

And I led Your praise

And it seemed so simple…

Oh my soul, be still

Why are you so down,

So troubled and disturbed?

Put your hope in God who rescues;

Once again you will praise.

My lungs are breaking

From screaming for help

Crying for home

Holding my breath

Waves are breaking over my head

The cries of the deep ring in my ears

And I’m overwhelmed

Out of control…

God, be the love that drives my days!

God, be the song of my soul at night!

This is a prayer for my life!

You are my rescuer

Have You forgotten me?

Will You let me be swept away by the sea

Or crushed in the depths?

Where is my God?

Oh my soul, be still

Why are you so down,

So troubled and disturbed?

Put your hope in God who rescues;

Once again you will praise.

God, I am Yours!

My purpose is Yours

My plans are Yours

Save me for Yourself!

You are my rescuer

Have You forgotten me?

Will You let me be swept away by the sea?

Let me see daylight again

Throw me truth I can cling to

Fill my lungs with air

And I’ll sing it back to You

Safe in Your arms

I will be content

I will sing to You my God

Oh my soul, be still

Why are you so down,

So troubled and disturbed?

Put your hope in God who rescues;

Once again you will praise.


Dreaming of ‘never again’

Peace is the very large elephant in the room at Remembrance season. We solemnly commemorate the end of the ‘war to end all wars’, ‘remember’ its horrors, and say ‘never again’. Do we mean it? Or do we mean ‘never again – well, not quite like that anyway…no trenches, no ‘over the top’, no conscription, no under-16s…preferably minimal loss to our troops…but other than that, maybe’? The very next time a world situation threatens our interests, the tanks and bombers are wheeled out again. We develop weapons and armour that minimise our losses, but we make little attempt at peace.

The truth is, we’re lazy – we want peace to come to us. I want people to treat me with respect, be polite to me, get out of my way, do what I want them to do, but I’m less keen on going out of my way to do that for others. It doesn’t come naturally, it can be hard work and can be costly in all sorts of ways, especially to my pride. Peace is hard work; it takes effort, energy, time, and money.

Just as the English language struggles to differentiate between different types of love, it only has one word for peace. I’ve come across 2 other types of peace – the Latin ‘pax’, the absence of conflict, and the Hebrew/Arabic ‘shalom’/’salaam’, restored relationships. If we want peace, if we mean ‘never again’, are we content with pax or are we serious that we want shalom? Pax could arguably be achieved uneasily by bombing an enemy into submission, or at least fragmenting and weakening them sufficiently that they cannot fight back for the time being. Pax is a ceasefire. Shalom on the other hand takes work, risky and difficult work, and a lot of resources. It would mean dialogue, trying to build understanding, find common ground, and together thoroughly root out and tackle the underlying causes of the conflict. It would mean going beyond ceasefire towards justice, and beyond even an end to hostility towards friendship.

In Luke 6:27-38, Jesus challenges us to love our enemies. It’s a deeply challenging passage. The more I look at Jesus, the less I can reconcile military action against our enemies with His words. His response to violence looks like a challenge to the enemy to do their worst to see if they will make a monster of themselves, and rather than condemning them, to do good for them in return with generosity, to seek for them what He would want for Himself. I’ve come to the conclusion that I, we, need to dream bigger in order to pursue this kind of attitude to others and extend it to all whilst still trying to find a way to protect innocents from harm.

I believe in redemption too! Every life is precious – the worst individual can change, and although it doesn’t excuse the evil things they may have done, it brings at least some chance for healing. I’ve been given second chance on second chance, and however much I hate what some people do, even all that they might stand for, I’m still not comfortable with the idea of denying them a second chance, or at least a chance to confront them with the error of their ways. If we kill, we condemn them, whether ‘to hell’ or to simply go down in history as ‘evil’. At worst we make them a martyr, an inspiration to those that agree with them and an excuse for revenge. If we capture them alive and try to work their issues through with them we at least give them a chance to change, even if they don’t take it. What a story they’d have if they took that chance! And what an opportunity for real change in the situation!

Can we use our imaginations? Let’s dream, and try to find a bigger vision of how the world could be, that would really mean taking ‘never again’ seriously, honouring the horror of war and working for true shalom peace instead.

We’ve all been brought up immersed in the idea that the way to tackle injustice is to kill the baddies, from our very earliest children’s books, games and cartoons, through history lessons to Hollywood films. We’re so blinded by it that faced with real-world injustices we cannot see any alternative but inaction, so we see only the choice between war and ignore.

In any situation of injustice, the choice is bigger than ‘do nothing’ or ‘kill the baddies’. Apart from anything, the reality is that the world is not neatly divided into ‘goodies’ and ‘baddies’ in the way a cartoon world is, which should be obvious but really isn’t. Our own citizens can take part in atrocities, our own troops are capable of ‘friendly fire’ and even war crimes, ‘enemy combatants’ are capable of heroism and compassion, and there are likely to be unwilling participants on both sides of a war. However subhuman a person’s actions, they still remain human, just like us, and to ignore this is dangerous as it allows us to justify the ‘removal’ of a human person as the removal of evil.

I wrote to MP prior to the recent vote on military action in Iraq, asking him to press the government to put more resources behind peace building and real, lasting conflict resolution, and he wrote back arguing why doing nothing about the atrocities taking place there would be criminal* – I agree; was that what I was asking for?! Given no alternative other than inaction, perhaps he’s right that war is necessary. I don’t know. I’m glad I’m not the one having to make the call on which is the lesser evil. But peace building is anything but doing nothing! I’m so steeped in the idea of ‘kill the baddies’ myself that even after a lot of thinking about this I still can’t see what the elusive third way would be (there’s probably several ‘third ways’ anyway), but I believe it exists, despite being something that would need a lot of effort and investment**. It will take our own effort and investment too, personally – we can’t leave it to our governments, as they, like the rest of us, will tend to see only the two immediate choices. We need to find ways of inspiring others, including politicians, to dream bigger and begin to think of the possibility of peace.

I’ve begun to wonder, would we make the same decisions to go to war if the injustice or atrocity we are wanting to tackle was happening in our own country, our own communities? Would we send in the bombers to tackle a home-grown terrorist network? Would we destroy our own infrastructure to weaken a home-grown insurgence? Would we risk killing our own innocent citizens to make sure we ‘took out’ all the militant citizens? I’m not sure we would – I think we’d do anything we could to try to avoid using those kinds of tactics, even if protecting innocent citizens and our own infrastructure meant an extreme mobilisation of resources. I imagine we’d try to take the ‘enemy’ alive as far as possible, try them, lock them up, and work to build bridges with the communities they arose from to try to find solutions. Ideally, maybe even try a reconciliation process between them and those they intended to harm. But I’m dreaming…

I genuinely believe war is no solution – it only eases our conscience by allowing us to say ‘well, at least we did something, we tried.’ War doesn’t achieve peace***, it just achieves a temporary pax, on top of suffering, injustice and a sense of righteousness on both sides that usually leads to a recurrence of conflict. We have to invest in finding a third way to shalom instead. Dream with me. Isn’t peace worth it? 🙂

*incidentally that’s exactly what we’re doing about the ongoing conflict(s) in central Africa where arguably worse atrocities have been taking place for years…

**It would probably mean moving our investments away from arms too. The even bigger elephant in the room is the hold the arms trade has over global politics. ‘I heard men talking about grain to feed the world, saying there’s a way to fight this war without wounds, but that won’t sell arms’ – Verra Cruz’s excellent ‘Strange Food’

***I like the Spearhead lyric, ‘you can bomb the word to pieces but you can’t bomb it into peace’.

October 24th

Why 24th October?

Because it’s worth shouting about! Even after 15 years my ‘before’ is still raw, but it’s enough to say it involved depression, paranoia and self-hatred – but I want to tell you about 24th October if you’ll let me? I was 16 and had got to the end of myself. I thought there must be a God for me to have seen some of the stuff I’d seen, but it seemed that God didn’t care about me, didn’t see me, wasn’t bothered, and I doubted it was possible to meet God; I thought it must be a figure of speech. But I was desperate and it seemed like there being a meetable God was my only hope, and I prayed something along the lines of ‘God, if you’re real and you can hear me, I don’t care anymore if you save me or not, I just want to meet you’.

And I think Jesus must have gone ‘Finally!!’ and come running, as He met me in the funniest, cheesiest (even by 90s standards!) way possible, at my friends’ church’s youth service, which I had gone to to watch them doing a horribly cheesy dance to a worse song! 😀 I was suddenly aware of Jesus with me, calling my name, speaking directly to me, picking me up off my chair when the leaders asked if anyone wanted to be prayed for (I’d no way have gone up if He hadn’t, I was far too shy!), and flinging His arms round me via my youth-group-to-be and saying over and over ‘You’re safe, you’re safe’.

And I am! Through being befriended by the resurrected Jesus I know that since He’s alive, I have hope beyond this life, whatever that means in practise (which I don’t know) – but even on top of that, just meeting Him I got healed and the painful ‘before’ stuff that had held me back just wasn’t there anymore, even that evening as I went home, and did not come back the next morning as I feared it would, and hasn’t since. Hence I’ve been signing my name with a smiley for the past 15 years – that I have a real smile now is a miracle, and I celebrate it, it doesn’t necessarily mean I’m happy, but it means I’m ok inside.

I got home that night, praying Jesus would come with me, and stay with me, and still be there the next day, and I read some of the Bible I’d heard at the service. Same words I’d read a couple of years before whilst trying to become ‘Christian’ by reading it, but this time Jesus just seemed to walk off the page into the room. Real, personal. And as promised He’s continued to be there, if sometimes harder to reach than at other times.

Where have I been since? I’ve found faith is only ever deepened by asking questions, allowing my ideas and beliefs to be challenged, listening to new ideas – I can only find more of God, not less, by searching, since (S)he’s there. (you’ll get a pretty good idea of my journey from the lyrics of a certain band I follow a bit too much – which is why I follow them!) The straightforward easy stuff no longer looks at all straightforward and easy, and the more I’ve got to ‘know’ God, the less I realise I actually ‘know’, and even *can* know, God, and yet the more I see, and love, and realise I’m loved. Jesus is always challenging me to push the boundaries of love, and that’s taken me into activism in all sorts of ways. But I still have boundaries that need challenging, and there’s still far too much of me that’s a ‘work in progress’! You wouldn’t know I had this story, or that I’d ever met the real, incredibly charismatic and inspiring Jesus that we can read about, from just being around me for example. I’ve a way to go…but then, I’ll never be able to really do Him justice! And still He bears with me 🙂

Hello world…

It turns out I have an irrational fear of blogging. So…I’ve started a blog! I’ll try to write a proper ‘about’ section at some point when I’m feeling brave, but for now here’s a small introduction. I’ve found that one of the things I’m most afraid of, and yet most inspired by in others, is real, honest soul-baring. I’m drawn to people who are open about their thoughts, feelings and struggles to become better people. Their integrity makes others feel able to open up and take off their ‘masks’ too, and so openness and real relationships and shared struggles for a better world spread as a result. I want to break down some of the walls I’ve built around my own soul so I can hopefully inspire others to do the same…but it terrifies me! I set myself a challenge at the beginning of this year to do it anyway, and since blogging is a form of soul-baring, and one I’m afraid of, I felt the need to start this blog. If it does nothing else, I hope it will be part of the process of freeing my own soul from fear. 🙂