“Show them Love… And they won’t Forget You”.

The above is a quote that concluded a testimony in such a succinct and stark way that it stayed with me for a long time after the telling. It made me think about the small things we do as Christians, the little acts of kindness that allow people to see Jesus in us.

It was my boyfriend who told me the story; of his friend who was in prison and had been left alone. I currently have a family member in prison and it’s only now that I realise just how lonely the experience is. Those who receive regular family visits are the lucky ones: for a lot of inmates, the only visitor to pass by their door is the police guard; the only time they talk to people is when they’re in their cells, whether it be an argument or an impassioned wail: if there’s no one outside kind enough to wire money to their prison account, they’re poor. The only way to make money is to do jobs inside the prison (with salaries starting from around £1). These are needed to purchase the most under-appreciated necessities: toothbrushes, toothpaste, soap….

Then there’s the lack of ‘outside’ time; in the ‘harsher’ prisons, the weather is a myth. You’re unaware of the rain; you’ll be released having missed blizzards, tropical storms, monsoons and biting chills; heatwaves…. the draft from the window and the tiny swirls of dilapidation left by dust motes in the sun are the only traces of natural life you get. Imagine being in a place like this, against your own will, and no one you knew on the ‘outside’ could be bothered to give you a call?

It’s a well known adage that one only knows their true friends when they’re going through a struggle. I suppose that, whilst the prisoner stares at the cell walls, their eyes tracing the assaulted escape attempts of prisoners past, they’re able to reflect in their loneliness and desperation; of all those friends they had way back when who were always there for a laugh, but the moment a member of their arsenal was gone, they quickly found a replacement at the artillery store.

Like my family member, my boyfriend had an acquaintance who had been in a similar situation. In prison and alone. His ‘boys’ were no longer there. The person who sent him money and letters was simply an ‘acquaintance’: my boyfriend. When this man was released, he simply said:

“You were the only one who was there for me. Even though I don’t believe in your God, if you ever tell me something I’ll listen to you before anyone else”.

The only reason why this guy was able to say such a thing was because he saw something different; a trait of Christ. It’s a powerful testament for any Christian, anyone who loves God, to look into their everyday actions and see if the people around them would be able to identify the Christ in them. We can’t all be in a position to rescue a baby from a burning building, or be stoned in the Middle East for our faith, or make it into the public domain and publish books about our life in Christ, but we can help a struggling person with their shopping; spot a lonely person at the bus stop on a chilling winter’s day and offer them a lift home; say “good morning”, volunteer, become a mentor to younger people we know; simply tell people we know to be struggling with life that we’re there to hear their vent. And smile. A genuine smile given to a person who never receives them is like ambrosia: something heavenly. The best stuff. It’ll keep them going.

When people see the genuine care you have for humanity, they’re more likely to inquire about the One who placed that care in your heart.

xXx

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Knotholes

We said we would wait for God
before we did anything.
We ate our meals with a third seat between us
vacant, so He could sit and observe
our pure conversations
stilted devotional rhetoric
church banter
musings of creation;
amongst the blades of glass on the table
filled with apple juice
that cast chlorophyllic shadows
across the white table cloth
and reflected on the silvery pools of knives and forks
which glimmered in blank response.

You used to telephone me in the morning
so we could pray together;
at night for Bible study.
Visits round mine consisted of sitting by the coffee table
Bible open,
and our bottomless eyes staring at newsprint
becoming entranced in the thees the thys the thous the therefores
It seeped through in your prayers, this language
to take me back to a buried age–
your words fell upon me till I was foetal and surrounded
hands tied together, noose around my neck, shackles on.
Men calling–

WITCH

–to my face.

Our Bible was imperative to our meetings,
the paper thin, like the skin of a cocoon
fragile, wings of a moth
pure, like doilies on wedding tables
family, friends and anonymouses crowding around us
as we dance, Bible confetti snowing down on our heads
Bible petals falling on a consummation bed
dotted red with consummation blood
red turning to auburn, auburn to chestnut
the wild of me as we interlock, hidden in knotholes in the forest
and back again, to meet the disappointment
of cyclical blood: burnt umber,
the ashes of my hope swirls like dust unearthed
from a rug.

Trivial things of married couples
arguments, torn wedding dresses
reconciliations in bathtubs
counting down menstrual days like prophecy
until you can try again.

You and I failed to get there.
I remember staring at the ceiling
as it swam in my wetted eyes
and feeling forbidden blood oozing down my legs.
We were still young
and illegitimate.
Our Bible open above us but cold and foreboding
every swirl of the letter was like a dismayed Eye.
We were on the floor, by the coffee table. Behind us,
was the vacant chair
where God should have been.

The Scar

You held me like I was fragile
close to your chest, a pulsing heart
black raiment hugged my body
my prison and my shield

Would you still want me
if you saw the scars
like leeches patched to my arms
the rippled tiger-stripes
on my legs
seemingly drawn on with a blade
and insanity.

I know you love that Other Person
with the holes in His hands
and the crescent of broken skin in His side;
I know these markings remind you
of love and sacrifice and good things

but is my body good enough?
Will you love me,
knowing these things that I have done
where I have come from
and who I want to be?

Can I come as I am?
Or is my world
too dark and too deep
for you to tread?

Carousel

We went to the steam fair
you and I
You said:
“Let’s go on the merry-go-round”
I sat on a horse called
Chance
you sat on another:
Temptation.
We journeyed ’round the carousel
tracing the cyclical monotony of
love
whilst  The Enemy sat behind us
on Lust
and goaded us to go where we shouldn’t.

Wales and the Man-Hating Thing.

So, this time last week I was in beautiful Wales. It was raining rather heavily by Friday, but there was still a serene enough atmosphere for the day to be enjoyable. I was at Camp Meeting, a religious conference that happens every year. I was able to meet lots of new people and saw friends who I haven’t seen for months. We stayed in a deluxe caravan which meant that many wanderers passed through our dwellings to eat and relax in a comfortable place. I was with five other girls, two of which I hadn’t met before the trip but I’ve since become friends with them.

On the Saturday night I had a chat with someone who told me that I “have a dislike for men when it comes to relationships”. At the time I laughed it off, but last night and today I’ve really been thinking about what he said. This blog has always documented my loop-the-loop of feelings regarding men, misogyny in church and a dislike for a certain type of man. I used to dislike men because all the men in church I met seemed to not take these issues seriously, but I never thought I still emanated a vibe of “misandry”. I find this a little worrying, if I’m honest, only because I’m currently in a “it’s complicated” state with the person who said this to me, and I wonder if this is one of the things that is holding him back from me.

I always knew that amongst some of my friends I’m just a Feminist Ranter, but those are my friends. Now it seems that potential love interests will see me the same way. I’m not sure how I feel about that. A while ago I made a post that I’m stepping out of the relationship boardroom, mainly because I was fed up with all the requirements given to women about how they should behave if they want a man and also because the relationship topic is constantly being talked about these days to the point of tedium. Since then, this particular person has come along, even though I wasn’t looking for anyone, and even though we’re definitely just friends, this situation and his subsequent comments have made me view my personal romantic life in a different light. It’s one thing to be single by choice, but another to be single because people are weary of you…

But then again, if church men are weary of me because of my views (which believe it or not are no where near as extreme as they once were), then maybe it’s best that I seek the Kingdom first before trying to get involved with anyone. Maybe it’s a good thing that I am single. I wouldn’t want to change who I am or not care about women as much as I do because it somehow makes some men feel uncomfortable. I’m grateful that this man made no indication that I need to change who I am (I take that as a good sign of his character), but what he said has made me think. I’m starting to learn a bit more about how others see me. I just don’t know if this will have an impact on who I am.

The mind wanders…

 

The Only Time I Feel Really Ashamed to be A Christian

Well, not the only time.

And also, I don’t think I’ll ever be ashamed to be a Christian. I’ll never be ashamed to follow Christ, but there are times when I feel uncomfortable that there are true fruit bats out there, claiming the same name as me.

I could talk about the American Christian Right, and how, because of that country’s influence, people the world over have used Sarah Palin, Rick Santorum and George W. Bush to speak for the rest of us, just so they can laugh and mock Christians and continue their campaign to get religion abolished from the world.

But I won’t. My discomfort is felt on a more local level. There’s a particular topic that comes up from time to time, especially on Sabbath afternoons, during lunchtimes, when we’re discussing politics and religion and the Bible, that makes me cringe. Sometimes the topic comes up during a sermon even, or Sabbath School, or Wednesday night Prayer Meetings.

I speak of homosexuality.

It’s an odd thing, because those Christians from denominations who claim to only follow the New Testament will quote Leviticus, which is in the Old Testament, to explain why homosexuality is wrong. Then you have the other Christians who see God as only loving. They will quote “God is Love”, “God so loved the world…” which are all true quotes—because God is love—but then they forget that God is also a God of standard, of justice, and there are some things that displease him. They forget that God is soon coming to judge us all, and to destroy the world with fire. As an Adventist, I suppose it’s easier for me to quote from the Old Testament because the Seventh-day Adventist church practices from the Old Testament. As in, we don’t eat pork, shell fish or mackerel. And all the other texts, such as keeping slaves and stoning wrongdoers are not followed because Jesus said those laws were done away with*. The text about not wearing cotton and wool was more to do with the spread of leprosy than it being an actual sin**. So yes, it makes more sense for Adventists to quote from Leviticus, because we still follow those laws from Leviticus that weren’t nailed to the Cross.

But there’s a sense of oneupmanship about this, a vibe that I feel from certain Adventists, that makes me cringe.

No matter what we Christians say about sin (“oh all sin is the same!”) there are some sins that we think are worse than others. I witnessed a great example of this a couple years ago: during the sermon, a pastor confessed, with great flippancy, that he had a temporary ban from driving for using his mobile phone in the car. The congregation tutted and shook their heads, giggling slightly, and that was it. He broke the law! Knowingly! Can you imagine the reaction if he’d said

“Good morning church. Yeah, tough week. I’ve been sleeping on the sofa because I punched my wife in the face.”

It would illicit a different reaction, I’m sure. Even me, when I hear about child sex abuse cases and paedophiles, I just get so angry. At this moment in time, I feel that I would never be able to forgive a paedophile, because what they do is awful. When I hear about adulterers, I get angry also. But lying or stealing, whilst bad, doesn’t conjure the same feelings in my heart. I suppose that’s how some Christians feel about homosexuality. Especially Christians from cultures that shun gay people. They can’t explain it, but the thought of gay marriage, gay adoption and even civil partnerships get’s them angrier than all other sins. I was at a Youth Day of Fellowship a few months ago, listened to a great sermon, which was interrupted by a PSA about gay people. The preacher was doing so well, then he started talking about promiscutiy, then that led onto a little rant about gay people, about homosexuals not knowing the “right way to enter” and I grimaced. What was worse, people were laughing with him. Why? He was being mean, so why was his homophobia so acceptable?

A part of me can understand the hand-wringing that people get into when it comes to sexual matters. Even in wider society people act … odd about it. We concern ourselves far too much with other consenting adults’ sexual activities. Like, when we hear that someone is into kinky stuff, or strange festishes, we shun them. I know for a fact that there are some people who would be horrified to know that their family doctor engaged in hardcore S&M. It’s sad, but true. I think that these issues are most prevalent in church. During the Dark Ages, the church tried it’s best to suppress other people’s sexual appetite and we still see this today. It’s one of the reasons why I’ve never agreed with the forced celibacy of priests in the Catholic church. It just seems oppressive and unhealthy to me.

I understand that we as Christians should call sin by its right name, as it were. If the Bible says homosexuality is a sin then fine, direct people to the Bible and gently let them know. Then let it go. I just hate the jokes, the cruelty, the nasty remarks about gay people, especially because I have gay friends that I would love to take to church with me because I think they would really enjoy it, but I’m just so scared about what they might hear. And that’s awful—it’s shameful, even. God is for everyone, but some of His people are turning others away from Him.

I just wish that people had the same dislike for this sin that they did for their own. Then maybe they would feel remorse for their homophobia.

(*John 8
**Leviticus 13
I mentioned these texts because they, along with the food laws, are usually quoted in defence of why we shouldn’t follow anything in Leviticus. Hope it helps.) 

Creation

You opened your locket
just for me;
two sides arched like
the waves
that rippled above the Israelites
as they marched towards the promised land.

The clasp came undone
pop
I heard you gasp
and we worked together;
hands entwined
so you could guide
that part of me to work inside.

Such a thing, a locket:
powerful, tenacious, inducing awe to the beholder
yet with an appearance of delicacy
and fragility
an oxymoron reflecting the complexities of woman;
a creation that was truly thought about
a creation to make one feel truly proud

Ezer
A thing impossible to live without
from Eden ’till now
an influence hopeless to understand;
a force that could
tear down Samson, Solomon, the greatest of men
but in its purity a force to cherish and protect.

It’s a privilege
for you to allow me
to be encased within you.

Women in Ministry

I’m not entirely sure how I feel about this topic. I think I’ve spoken a lot about the gender inequality in religion and as the state of the world deteriorates we’ll inevitably get more sexism and chauvinism in church. We know that religion is a hotbed for tradition and with this tradition comes views that are not only ridiculously Functionalist but also dangerous.

For example, people love to blame women for the current state of marriage in the church, because we rebellious women aren’t submitting anymore and we want to be “independent”. Since when was independence a bad thing? Unless everyone’s getting their moral lessons from Destiny’s Child songs then an independent woman shouldn’t be a problem. Like most things, the phrase has been twisted to mean an angry black female who emasculates all the males around her, when it should really mean a woman who can fend for herself. I was listening to the radio once where driving instructors were describing their most difficult students. Several of them mentioned that there was an influx of women in their 60s and 70s learning to drive for the first time; an age where their reflexes are slower and it’s much harder to pick up new skills. Why? Because all their lives they relied on their husbands to drive them everywhere, leaving them without transport once they were widowed.

I was watching a live online Bible study about relationships and the topic of submission came up. Once again, rather than clearly discussing and empathising with the women that had been beaten physically, emotionally and spiritually by their husbands because of a warped interpretation of the word “submit” and their husbands subsequent omission of the command for them to love their wives as Christ loved the church (and gave His life for it), everyone just went into rants about rebellious women. One bright spark actually said:

Are these problems a result of the women’s rights movement going too far?

I beg your pardon? So should we start taking rights away from women, then? Because we’ve been given too much? I wanted to pursue this comment, and maybe if I did I would have been given better clarification, but it was Sabbath and I didn’t want to get into an argument. After all, I’m trying not to be so hot-headed about the issue and I’ve been asking God to hold my tongue on this matter.

Not surprisingly, these views have been used to dictate to women what they can and can’t do in the church. I don’t claim to be an expert on the subject, but I think I may make it my mission to find out this month. I’ll do some study on it and write my findings, making sure to seek God for counsel and wisdom throughout : )

There is no denying, though, that God loves women and he has called them into service. The best example I can give for this is in Matthew 28:

 In the end of the sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to see the sepulchre.

And as they went to tell his disciples, behold, Jesus met them, saying, All hail. And they came and held him by the feet, and worshipped him.

Then said Jesus unto them, Be not afraid: go tell my brethren that they go into Galilee, and there shall they see me.

(28:1,9,10)

The first evangelists were women. It’s one of the most powerful moments in the New Testament, and such a privilege.

God gives messages to women as well. There’s Ellen White, for example.

I wanted to start studying this topic because I read this blog post earlier, and it made me wonder why there is such confusion surrounding the matter. We’re all supposed to be convicted and influenced by the same Holy Spirit, so why are there so many hurting women in church, left to feel inadequate and excluded? We’re all part of the same body and thus, we’re all needed.

(I just discovered that blog today; it’s nice.)

So it looks like along with my weekly study, not only am I studying the book of Jeremiah but now I’ve got this subject to do as well! You can’t have too much Bible study, I suppose…

xXx

 

Mr Right.

I knew not where to look
to find Mr. Right.
I made a list of all the preachers,
the Bible study workers,
the guys with nice cars
that gave lifts to older members
the ones who dressed nicely
and let women go first.

It didn’t work, though.
And confusion ensued.

“I feel like,” I said.
“Everyone is together.
Marriage and babies
Young, exciting love.
I know Ecclesiastes
I know there’s a time for
Everything.
But when is my time?”

Then I saw the truth.
Like the under belly of a whale:
smooth and serene on top with
scabs and boils underneath.
The guys who preached on Sabbath
and swore murder on the Sunday;
The Bible studies that were used
for elopements under sheets.
The cars that had housed
drugs, guns and plastic heels.

I saw then that I was seeking
a superfluous thing:
Hiding in a prefab when
a Palace stood ’round the corner.

For now I’ll wait
and learn to love myself again
because my Mr Right
is there.
With a Kingdom just for me.