When your will takes over your logic

It’s been ages. Last post was in February! But I was finishing my degree and for a little while I just lost the drive to meditate and think about blog posts, even though I have loads of drafts and ideas written on my phone. I completed my undergraduate degree in Sociology in May, and my graduation will be some time in September/October, so I have lots of time to think, read, write and catch up on various things that had to be put on hold. Today is also the last day of a  fast that I’ve been doing since Monday, so I can get some clarifications about my career and life goals. I’ll try to keep you all updated.

This week, I’ve been thinking about the will, and how closely it’s linked to pride. On Sunday, I went to my surrogate mother’s house for morning prayers, and we reflected on how God will go to any length—no matter how ridiculous to us—to save us from ourselves. He has a will for our lives, and we stray from it, and end up having to tread down dark, dangerous and miserable paths—which he allows—in order to finally see him and what he had tried to tell us from the beginning. We look over our shoulders at the adjacent road we could have gone down: bright, warm, and easy, and chide ourselves for being so foolish. This is why I’ve decided to wait patiently and pray about where I should go next in my life, because the initial experiences of sixth-form and university were riddled with doubt, loneliness and concern, that I’d made the wrong course choices; gone to the wrong institutions; started in the wrong year. For once, I want to walk down a path with confidence that it was the right decision.

As we spoke, some extra thoughts came to mind. There are a few ways to deal with wrong choices: some go into crippling self-pity and chastisement, resenting and hating themselves to the point of depression; others get annoyed because they saw where they went wrong, but pray for wisdom for the next time. Although some times, when their decisions lead to failure, some people project their frustrations on others. “It wasn’t me; the reason I did this was because; if only so-and-such had acted differently”. We’re all guilty of this at some point: deciding not to own up and admit to what we did wrong because it’s easier to blame someone else.

God’s will doesn’t just refer to our careers, but every choice we make. I thought about the blame game we tend to play with ourselves and each other, and for the first time, I could actually envision the wicked, who didn’t make it into the New Jerusalem in Revelation 20, charging towards the city to fight God. This passage always befuddled me because I thought “who could possibly do that, wouldn’t they just be really sad that they didn’t make it?” But if so often, when our bad choices and wrong doings are put in front of us in the calmest of ways, our first reaction is to lash out, give the silent treatment, and make excuses, then what hope would there be for someone being faced with all the wrong decisions they had made that led them to be standing on the outside of the Ultimate Gift? They’d no longer be able to see all the measures God had taken to save them, they’d just see everything that everyone else did, that caused them to miss out on heaven.

The will is a scary and great thing. If we let our pride and ego get in the way, we’ll only make decisions for ourselves; we’ll live solely for our own interests; which will inevitably not only hurt us, but someone else. Furthermore, when these decisions cause problems, and we’re confronted with this, we’ll never admit to it, deciding once again to put the blame on others. I had this experience this week and it’s honestly the most frustrating thing: when you tell someone they’ve hurt you and done something wrong, but they’ve decided to be upset with you for reasons they can’t properly vocalise. But after reading and studying this week, I think I know what the problem is.

If we stopped engaging in this battle of wills, of self interest, and instead surrendered our wills to God, we’d all be walking down that sweet, easy road happily. But until then, we struggle through the brambles.

Pity

For the first time in my life
I felt the 
                 Pitter Patter
of tiny hopes
in the form 
of a smooth
brown hand

Soft.
Like a freshly baked scone
also warm to the touch.
I sat with the child
while he read to me
as he did, 
his stubby fingers brushed against mine
half-clenched over the jagged edges of
his faded purchase
half-holding onto me
for approval.

With that touch
arrived the
                     Pitter Patter
as I began to need
like the wanted monsoon
after an early hosepipe ban,
his hand felt welcome on mine:
a stigmata of friendship
a sign of my peace.

The want for me 
to love something bigger than myself
came in the form
of a stranger’s boy
watching me serenely in the library
as I listened
to hear him read.

Going into Hiding

They say the the best way to witness is at home; living with a family that doesn’t share your faith. I know this, but it’s become an almost daily battle. Although my dad is a Christian, I don’t live with him, so the house I live in currently is not a ‘Christian’ one. Additionally, I have four brothers and sisters and a mother–none of them share my faith. It’s overwhelming a lot of the time and frustrating and annoying and all different things. For example, I don’t think any of them read this blog–maybe because of it’s religious focus, or maybe because they’re not interested. I’m not sure.

I’ve discovered a trait in myself that is beginning to scare me, but the more I age, the more it appears. I’ve begun to withdraw into myself: I’ve started retreating away from my family. I stay in my room all day or if not, I’m outside. Out with the boyfriend, out with friends, out at any church event I know of. I suppose I feel more ‘myself’ with people who understand me better and I know I won’t be the ‘odd one out’. Being an Adventist has caused problems between my family and I in the past: about two years ago I was called to choose between my sister and God: she was determined to have her wedding on the Sabbath and demanded that I make a decision. I chose God; I understand the importance of the Sabbath and the dangers of compromising my faith (it only takes the one time before everyone thinks they’re just as important for you to bend your faith like a straw). Since then, I never speak to her about church things. We still talk; the event is over, but the feelings were never resolved. She never trusted the Adventist church and she definitely doesn’t now, so I worry that most things I say to her will confirm some pre-conceived ideas. I don’t know.

That’s just one thing. There are others. I can’t really go to my family for advice, because the way how I would want to respond to it, as a Christian, might not concur with what they think I should do; I also feel strange telling most of them that I’ll pray for their problems, because I know only one of my siblings truly believes in it. When I went to Jamaica, I was the only Adventist there amongst my family. Not only was my vegetarian diet made into something dramatic, but my being a Sabbath keeper and not being able to join in certain activities on the Saturday left a taste of discomfort. I didn’t want to be a burden, I had to watch what I said in case I came across as ‘weird’.

I know that despite all this, I cannot allow myself to drift any further. It’s not Christ-like. As the Christian, I’m supposed to be there, to empathise and to help, not to separate myself as if I’m too holy for them or something. I suppose it’s more painful sometimes when I know there’s a barrier of confusion between us. I truly love my family, but for a long time I’ve felt low and heavy at home, like I’m surrounded by treacle. I don’t know what to do or how to pray about it.

And sometimes, parents don’t help. Since we were both very young, my closest sister and I have had a sibling rivalry: she feels as though I’ve been able to get things that she hasn’t. Sometimes I’ve seen it, other times I think her emotion has allowed her to see illusions rather than real favourtism. Either way, it’s been a point of contention that laid dormant for years. Now I’ve seen a resurfacing of it, and I believe some of that has come from comments one of my parents made: that the reason why I get things is because I’m on a ‘good path’. It surprised me to hear this and I’ve never wanted nor asked for special treatment just because I’m a Christian, but today this sister has bandied about the ‘you’re the golden child’ phrase and it’s left me sadder and lonelier. It’s hard to know what to do at times like these, it really is.

I’ve decided to begin studying the story of Joseph, in depth. The thought came into my mind this morning, following the argument. It seems to contain a lot of the problems I’m currently facing and I’m sure I can learn something from it.

The next post will be happier, I’m sure…

xXx

Grief makes you Think

So, on the 25th April my grandmother died.

The last post I did is the poem I read at her memorial; her funeral was to be held in her hometown in Jamaica. I’ve just returned from Jamaica: the plane landed in London at around 10:30am on Saturday 18th May. It was a lovely trip: I learned so much and was able to think about a lot of things, things that will inspire many posts on this blog.

For a while now I’ve procrastinated with a lot of things. I’m scared of failure, I suppose. Additionally, the magnitude of all the things I want to do in my life daunt me and I fall back, hoping to find something easier to do. I want to make an app and have my own business; I want to write a trilogy; I want to run an online magazine, I want to start up a women’s charity. So many things, just one person!

Not only has the past two months or so shown me that life is too short to just think about good ideas, but it’s also made me more confident in myself, strangely, because God put many things on my path which has opened doors. When I went to Jamaica I made a friend who has emailed me the details of an upcoming conference on how to make your own app; it was on the plane journey where I was struck with the idea of a business; the lives of my now late grandparents has shown me that you have to step outside your comfort zone to do things, and that doing things to help others is a wonderful thing.

So today, I resumed work on the trilogy. I started researching more regarding the app… and I’ve set up the writing project (well, the initial part). The project is for women who want to share stories about their lives. I’m creating an anthology of women’s experiences of their personal ‘rites of passages’! For more details about it, how to submit and all other things, head over to this website. Please pass on the message–I need your help! It’s a huge project, but I have faith that it will work. Please pray for me, as I will for you.

There are two more things I want to do that I definitely need to start this summer also: some friends and I have spoken about a prayer ministry that I really hope can start soon, as well as a small decorating business to make extra change through our studies.

Lots of things, lots of faith: one huge God who can make it possible!

xXx

Night

The night fell upon us when she disappeared
I saw the world through the mist of my tears
The veil of sadness before my face
The oddity of loss and the strangeness of absence.
It felt like a red cloud in the middle of the sky
Or a missing star from Orion’s Belt

The night fell upon us when she disappeared
Cocooned in white linen;
Clean towels on a marble hospital bed
But she was healthy in hue:
Rich ebony; deep mahogany
My grandmother. Black Gold, wrapped in white radiance

Very much like a bold moon in the midst of a night sky.

The moon was full on the night that she left us
I looked up to the sky and asked God why
Why He took her then, on such a clear pretty night
And a hot sunny day
But the moon was comforting
It oozed peace, the same kind that crossed her face
As she lay there, almost sleeping, on the hospital bed.
She was so peaceful
Too peaceful to be alive
Too peaceful to feel the illness of life and the sadness of living
When someone you love has passed away.

The moon was out that night

An object that reflected the brightness of the stars
the offspring of the universe
Like a matriarch
Like grandma, injecting others with smiles

Or like a Pearl
a beautiful emblem encased in the black crust of an oyster
Iridescent darkness; glorious light
A comforting mix
A contrast of completeness

I was happy that the moon came out that night.

It reminded me of a pearl—and it made me think of grandma.

 

Pearl Jackson
04.04.1924—25.04.2013
See you on the Sea of Glass, Grandma
xXx

 

 

When Life Gets Hard, Get on Your Knees.

I think this is the first post of November, which is really awful. University work has come back with a vengeance, but I’m grateful that God has really helped me reach my personal word-count goals. He’s really been giving me the strength to get things done.

In addition, there has been a lot of problems at home recently. It’s nothing that I can go into detail about, but I’ve felt drained and frustrated and hurt and confused and angry all at once and in quick succession. Every now and then the world reminds me how powerless  I am against the grand scheme of things and God shows me that I can do nothing on my own. A couple weeks ago I got into probably the most bizarre and pointless argument of my life: it had no meaning; it was ignited by a ludicrous stimulus and both of our arguments were incoherent. Halfway through the argument I gave up and began mocking and trivialising the thing, which didn’t help, but I only did this because for the first time, a Bible text that is quoted so often on the pulpit actually had practical relevance to me. My eyes were opened as I saw the strange movements of dark forces before my eyes.

And to top it all off, I walked into church and they were discussing the very same text for Sabbath School. It was comforting.

Here it is…

11 Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.

12 For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.

13 Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.

Ephesians 6:11-13

I know now that I can do nothing. And I’m glad I know this, because it has made me pray more and surrender to God in a way I hadn’t before. I’ve been praying for my family more than I ever have and it makes me feel good.

God’s got it in control.

 

When God Just Isn’t Enough

I suppose a little catch-up is in order. Two weeks ago I went to ARME Bible Camp and it was an amazing experience. I hadn’t really prepared mentally or spiritually for it, so I wasn’t sure what to expect from it, or what I hoped to gain by going. I’m so glad went, despite it being exam season. Not only were the sermons convicting, but I was shown an interesting way to study my Bible. We were given practical tips for having effective morning devotions, how to engage in a spirit-filled Bible study and the Bible itself proved to be a very interesting book. It really strengthened my faith in it; I was able to see that from the very first chapter in Genesis to the last in Revelation, everything written is interconnected and was put there for a purpose.

I know a lot of people went to the camp to hear Ivor Myers, and whilst I found his sermons interesting, it was a sermon by Pastor Phillip Sizemore that got to me…

He told the story of his parents. Neither were Christians but they acted truly Christlike. They helped people, they housed a couple of homeless kids and brought them up as their own. And they disliked Christians with a passion. To them, Christians were bad people and all the Christians they came across were hypocritical. When Pastor Sizemore became a Christian, it disappointed his parents; they were worried he would turn out like “the rest”.

In the end, the hypocrisy of the Christians in their lives had devastating effects. It tore his family apart. It reminded me of my own family, and the impact a pair of hypocritical Christians has had on it.

My mum’s parents, Brother and Sister ‘B’, were well known in the Adventist church. They went to one of the founding churches in London, during the time when people from the Caribbean flocked to England for work. Brother and Sister B seemed like well-to-do Christians at church, but their home was a war zone. Adultery, child abuse and neglect were some of the things that took place in that house, and there was so much hatred that today, none of their children attend church, with two of them identifying as atheist. They gave my mum a distorted view of God, religion and the Adventist church in general. I’ll give you an example. When my older brother died, and my mum went to her parents for counsel, Sister B said to her:

See? This wouldn’t have happened if you had stayed in church.

Despite my own conversion to the Adventist church a few years ago, my sisters have little care for my beliefs, after all, the church didn’t help my mum in anyway, so what good could it do for anyone else?

When Pastor Sizemore spoke about his parents, the pain in his voice was so evident that I couldn’t help but think about just how much work I have to do. My family is dysfunctional, it’s not perfect and it has its problems. I would love it if we could all attend church together, be a spiritual support for one another, have family devotions (it would be nice if my parents could reconcile), but Brother and Sister B, my grandparents, left their mark. They’re both dead now, but I know my mum still hurts from how she was treated as a child. What can I do? How can I be a good enough witness to show her that the church isn’t like that anymore?

I spoke to her about it the other day. She told me that she made the decision that she would never belong to the same organisation as that of her parents. But she also said that maybe one day, before it’s not too late, she would come to the church. She hasn’t ruled it out completely.

And that gives me hope. The Spirit can soften any heart, after all.

xXx

Father

I grew accustomed to yelling when I was young
years of hunching over in a ball
in the corner of my room
meant that my back ached a lot,
but it was necessary to avoid
the screams of mother as she
pleaded with you to love her.

I knew what it felt like to be beaten
the sensation of blood running down my back
became lodged in flesh memory.
Crimson beads blossoming in flesh trenches
are so dangerous and eerie, yet an imperative aspect
of being your daughter.

I see red when the nurse comes to my room,
when they ask me to talk about my childhood
and tell them about my Father,
the man who loved the church and hated his family.
I no longer talk about God.
The juxtaposition between Heavenly Father and Earthly one
was a paradox too bizarre to comprehend.
So I stare into nothingness
with memories of epic hypocrisy
and the image of my Father,
the Pastor.

(I’ve just come back from ARME Bible Camp and one of the sermons I listened to was about Christian hypocrisy and the damage it does to people. I’m going to write a blog post about it soon.)

Peace of Mind

I feel relieved. Holidays are here so I can have a lie-in, do some much needed revision and relax for a bit.

At the same time I feel worried. Money is running low, I’m still without a job and I haven’t done as much Bible study as I would have liked. I started so well, researching into the Old Testament texts but then one night I was too tired to pick up my Bible and it’s been over a week later with no progress. I’m trying to get back onto it.

My life of true singleness is going fine though. That’s probably where the rest of the relief is. Now that I’ve stepped out of the proverbial boardroom, to leave the youth to stress about how Godly they look to the opposite sex, I’ve been able to concentrate on my walk with God a bit more. I want to learn more about myself and about Him and just … live.

My mother came with me to church last Sabbath for Visitor’s Day. She enjoyed her day and I’m just hoping she got something out of it, something more than just a rousing sermon. That’s my prayer, anyway.

A short blog post. There are other things I want to write, more poems I want do, but at the moment I’ll just leave this here. Hopefully I’ll be able to put more of my thoughts down during the holidays.

xXx

For Dad

I remember scaling the tree trunks
that were your legs and making a game of it.
It was an expedition:
The Great Sunday Challenge.

Your lap, full of warmth,
always welcomed me.
We would read the News of the World:
there would be dark stories to know
and light cartoons for finish off
before I left you at the sports pages
so you could grumble about who lost,
who won—
and who just didn’t cut it.

Trailing behind you like
the extension of a long, multicoloured cloak,
we’d go to East Street Market for cho-cho
Electric Avenue for fish.
We both looked a sight
hunched over with the tools of Sunday Dinner
on our backs.

Christmasses provided the last patch of the year
for the Jackson Quilt: a patchwork of fun
family
friends and food.
You were the weaver of it all and I your apprentice:
we would prepare the day before, you and me,
skinning kidneys by the sink and gutting fish
or marinating meat.

Childhood innocence left me in a bubble of ignorance
but I was an astute child and I was aware.
The knowledge of it hit me like the stench of rotting food.

The fabric of our quilt began to fray
long periods of neglect left it with moth holes and stains
the stitching unraveled and in its wake were
long silences
cold dinners
muffled shouts behind locked doors.

God stepped into our lives and assuaged some of the pain
but He was unable to stop the schism
that left me with two houses to bounce between.
I always returned from yours with precious cargo:
cakes, sweets and crisps—the Health Message a distant blight in our future.

It’s funny, though, that now I’m grown
I still come for you with an expectation
rifling through your jacket pockets for buttermints
or an eclair.

My reliance on you for everything
keeps me young and candid in your eyes.
I see this most when I talk to you
about boyfriends and husbands;
the act of leaving your nest for good.

But when that time does come
I know for sure what I will seek:
a provider, a protector, a friend,
a man of God—

—someone just like my Dad.

xXx

 

(I’m performing this at church this coming Sabbath. It’s poetry night and the topic is LOVE: romantic, parental, divine, whatever. There’s another two that I may perform, and I’ve already uploaded one of them (Mr Right.) the third one will be up shortly)