Woman

There is a woman that upsets me.
She calls herself ‘rubies’
readily adorned with the praises of men
then looks at me in disdain
her counter-onyx friend
the blood in me bubbles at her
like the poison in a cauldron
congeals, crystallises, readily broken
an imitation of a precious stone.

I’m not like her
because I have a voice
I talk too much
I don’t know my place, not what it’s like
to obey, to bow my head
to shut up.

My tongue, she said, will be my downfall
one day it’ll unravel from my mouth
roll onto the floor, red and fleshy
wrap itself around my neck and choke me
because I dress like trash
talk like trash
look like trash, dark and bruised
I’m not a woman like her
I’ve been too many places
around estates and tower blocks
through parks and forests
forever haunted, like some animal
in want of blood
or something precious.

There is a woman that I hate.
She is like a dolly dog
always happy and willing to please
she gets carried around in a bag
by people who think they own her
made to wear frilly things
pink things
things to mark her femininity
and she loves it.

I would rather be the wolf
running naked through the fauna
digging deep under the ground
to my secret trove
of diamonds.

The Right Way to Pray

Is there such a thing?

I actually wanted to talk about Independent Women, but something happened today that really put me in a sour mood for a good few hours…

I was asked to do the closing prayer at Sabbath School today. I actually hate praying in public: the words never come out; I get tongue-tied and I forget most of what I have to say. A few months ago I had been asked to do the pastoral prayer and I was dreading it until my Sabbath School leader suggested I write it down, so that I cover all the bases and don’t forget anything. Since then, this has been my way of doing public prayers before the church. I pray before I write the actual prayer and pray after, I pray throughout for inspiration. It has never been a problem before and it alleviates some of the stress on my part.

Today, I did my closing prayer and a few minutes afterwards a visitor from the Netherlands asked me to see him outside. Then he pretty much berated me for reading the prayer! He told me that I must never do that, and that God would give me the words to say. He said that prayer should always just come from the heart and not be prepared beforehand. I calmly told him that I heard a seminar once where it was argued that preparing prayers were not unBiblical, because in the same way one would prepare a sermon to speak before the church (and a sermon is also something that “comes from the heart”, with God leading it), one could also prepare a prayer. Which was true, I can’t remember the exact seminar, but I know it exists because that particular message was relayed to me.

As soon as I had said this, he looked embarrassed for telling me off; shuffled away and said “Oh sorry, I’m from the Netherlands so I don’t really know.”

You “don’t really know?” And what’s coming from the Netherlands got to do with it?

Huh?

This is why we should be cautious of people who say their opinions on religious matters with such conviction. If I hadn’t had the seminar to back me up, he would have made me feel really stupid and I would have had a completely negative outlook of my prayer life. All it took was a couple words from me for him to admit he didn’t really know what he was talking about. If only Jim Jones and David Koresh had had the same challengers. Yes, I am taking it a step further than what really happened, but when it comes to religion people are easily swayed, which is something I’ve seen a lot of recently in my own church. One person comes along, with no credentials, says something slightly “grey” with enough confidence, and then everyone starts to get confused.

Beware of such people!

Anyway, I felt really cheesed off after this man spoke to me and I have to admit I treated the Sabbath in a terrible way; I even went off to the cemetery to sulk! God forgive me.

Is there a “right” way to pray? Or are we too used to praying traditions?

The mind wanders…

 

Rahab

I knew what it was like
to have men in my house.
My body was an entrance
in which many passed through;
all-welcoming for wanderers who were hungry
and tense
and wanted nothing more than to ravish
and devour.

It was alien for me to open my doors
and leave my body closed tightly.
It was alien for me to witness men with a purpose.
So I gave them something to eat,
I folded their clothes as they slept
and I kissed them gently
when they took their leave the next morning.

Praying.

I’m not too sure what’s happened, but ever since January I’ve been praying like never before. I never hated praying or anything, but like most things I made the act of getting on my knees to be a procession, until I had no desire to do it. There were times when I didn’t know what to say; other times when I was so upset I couldn’t speak. I invested in a diary—which I keep locked and hidden—for my prayers when I’m too distraught to say anything. I’m someone who closes up when I’m upset and sadly God is the easiest person to do that with: you can’t see Him! He doesn’t have a phone to pester you with.

But I didn’t want to stay distant from Him. Some of the things written in the diary would surprise some people, but there are some things that only God needs to or should know about. There are things about me that I don’t like saying out loud, even in the confines of my own room; even when no one’s at home. The diary allowed me to express these things.

The diary helped in other ways too, I guess. It started me on my way for a healthy prayer life. I used to go to Wednesday prayer meeting just because it seemed like the right thing to do, but now I truly enjoy it; when I don’t go I’m bored, my Wednesday night somewhat of a damp squib. I like praying in the mornings, the evenings, and throughout the day. Ever since I started driving I pray in my head as I go. I think praying in this way has helped me stay calm when people blast their horns at me and spook me out.

I pray for my family and for their success in life. I pray for my own. University has been tough; it’s been a dramatic change from doing a course such as Creative Writing to the much tasking Sociology, which requires academic reading and assignments. I didn’t like university when I first started and even now I worry if I’ll do well in my first year exams. But when I pray for my success, God reminds me of all the times He’s helped me to pass. I’ve never failed an academic exam, why would God let me down now?

My friend set up a prayer group on Facebook where we can post prayer requests and testimonies. The whole idea of the group and the way how it’s taken off has really been a blessing. It’s been encouraging and it feels nice when I put requests on there to know I’ve got people praying for me, people who don’t even know me but are willing to pray anyway.

There’s been a case in the news this week about a couple who tortured and killed a 15-year-old because they believed he was a witch. Since then, certain pratices of corrupt churches in London have come into the limelight. I’ve seen these churches and I know about them; they spring up from no where, on the top floors of abandoned shops, with long entrances that look like the openings of caves. Their signs are dubious, with advertisements of prophets and prophetesses, who will heal your sicknesses. These people inject paranoia into vulnerable adults and brainwash them into believing their children are possessed. Some of these children are seriously ill and their parents ignorant of vital signs, so they go to these pastors who pray and chant over them, forever traumatising the children and leading them into distress. Some of these children are killed. The pastors are rolling in the tithe and offering money given to them by their congregation. Prayer can be abused.

But in its purity, it’s an amazing thing. There’s no other force like it. Read through the Bible and you’ll see countless miracles performed through prayer, the prayer of someone who truly believes and loves their Creator.

I could take or leave prayer before. Now I can’t live without it.

Happy Sabbath.

xXx

A Testimony!

Happy Sabbath.

I love when a Sabbath starts on a high. I still haven’t experienced The testimony, my Damascus Road Testimony, but until then I appreciate the little ones—because in reality, they’re not that little at all.

Quick recap: I was doing Creative Writing at Derby University. I dropped out after first year to pursue a career as a Mental Health nurse but I failed the exam and ended up settling for Sociology at the University of Greenwich. Greenwich requires students to pick up extra courses to make up the points for the year so I chose Forensic Criminology and French—I love the former and hate the latter. I was really down at the start of the year because I thought I had ruined my life and I just wasn’t enjoying university.

The first part of my testimony comes in the form of a final career choice. Even though my dream is to be a published novelist, I still need a day job. One of the reasons I left the Creative Writing course at Derby was because  I couldn’t think of a job that I could do with a Creative Writing degree and my motivation for it started to wane.

Talking to my mum this week it finally dawned on me the job I could do. I would like to work in a Trade Union. I reckon it’s quite competitive these days, but they’re still hiring by the bucketload, plus I have the advantage of knowing how to get into the field as my mum works in the legal department for one of the major unions in the UK (don’t worry, no nepotism here; she can’t get me the job). I started following the work of the trade unions earlier this year when the Tories got in and was both fascinated and horrified by the stories my mum came home with, of the unfairness some people have to face. Finding a career that would be good for me has really got my confidence going and now I’ve started to work harder, because I know where my degree will lead to. I’m still going to pray about it anyway, as I’ve had to twist and change my desire to be a Mental Health nurse quite a lot since I started this degree.

The second part of my testimony is in regards to my French course. No, I don’t like it nor do I understand it and I find the classes boring. I’ve been struggling to retain information it’s made me fall behind in classes more than once. Last week, however, I fell behind in a bad way. I was supposed to hand in a portfolio of work that I didn’t know until it was too late was actually part of a formal assessment. I didn’t understand it so I didn’t do it and decided to give myself an extension for extenuating circumstances (LOL). But then the following week went by and I still hadn’t done it. By this time I was aware just how important the portfolio was and I was bricking myself over how much trouble I would get into. Friday morning came (today) and I very nearly almost stayed at home. So I prayed. I prayed some crazy desperate prayer, pleading with God to soften my French teacher’s heart so she would understand.

I went to class early and told her that I had had trouble with the work and hadn’t done it yet.

“Erm,” she said, “did we agree for you to have an extension?”

“Uhhhhhhh. I—oh yeah! I don’t think we did, did we?”

“You do know I can penalise you for not handing it in on time?”

I then went on a little ramble, saying I hadn’t known who to go to if I’d needed the help; I also hadn’t been able to get to a reliable printer in time; it was really hard work—

“Well it’ll be kind of pointless you coming in class today,” she said. “We’re going to be going through the portfolio together.”

There was a long pause.

“I’ll tell you what,” she said, “Go to the library for an hour and complete the portfolio now. Come back at twelve for the second part of the lecture and I’ll take your work in anyway. I won’t penalise you.”

HUUH? Can I get an ‘Amen’???

I almost cried on my way to the library! It took longer than I thought, though (I told you it was hard); I ended up taking two hours and arriving in the classroom when the lecture was over.

“This wasn’t our agreement, was it?” She said, tapping her foot on the ground.

“I’msosorrysorrytooklongsorrypaperjamsorrywrongfrenchtapesorrysorry.”

And she still accepted it! My prayer was answered. I should have a big red mark next to my name in the coursebook for handing in the work a week late, but thank God it’s all worked out.

But now I must never screw up in the lesson again. She’s gonna be watching me now, I’m sure of it…

xXx

The Facebook Preacher.

Happy Sabbath.

I was talking to my friend yesterday about Facebook Christians. He’s a guy, so he knows how guys think. I wanted to know his opinion about someone from my local church who’s shown interest in me. It’s really useful having a close male friend…

He told me to be careful, gave his reasons, and thankfully confirmed my own apprehension.

‘Are you on Facebook?’ has become a casual greeting nowadays. You meet someone for the first time, ask the question, and hopefully get to know them more through Facebook chatting–or you probably never talk to them again, only reading snapshots of their lives when their status occasionally crops up on your newsfeed. That’s what Facebook is all about: giving people snapshots of your life. Look through the albums, see the pictures of what looks like an amazing scene at an amazing dinner party. How do you know the dinner party was amazing? There might have been stilted, dry conversation, awkward silences–perhaps an argument–but everyone’s managed to pull a smile together and give the spectators of said photograph the impression that the whole night was a success.

It’s actually quite an interesting sociological phenomenon. Anthony Giddens explores the concept of our Biographies in several essays. It’s all in relation to the concept of The Self in modern society. We try to maintain satisfactory biographies to gain respect and recognition from others; we feel shame when an exaggerated aspect of our biographies is exposed. In essence, Facebook helps us to maintain the appearance of an amazing, interesting life; a satisfactory biography.

How does this relate to Christianity?

Have you ever thought that someone must be crazily, unbelievably holy because of what they say on Facebook? There are a lot of Facebook preachers out there, writing Bible passages, quotes from Ellen White and warnings of the End Times as their statuses; they never forget to wish everyone a Happy Sabbath at the strike of sunset; when they post music, it’s strictly Gospel–and none of that jumpy Tye Tribbet, please. Old Skool hymns only. Don’t misunderstand me. There is nothing wrong with doing this. Many a time I’ve been uplifted by a poem or passage that someone has posted, but the question is, what does this person do when they’re not on Facebook publicly declaring their piety? Does their life reflect their Facebook status? The Facebook status only gives us a snapshot of the emotions and feelings of that person at any given time. In real life, would people ever know that they’re a Christian?

There are a lot of people on my Facebook that I don’t know personally. If I was to take them at face value, based on their Facebook Persona, I’d help them pack their bags for their First Class journey to Heaven. The thing is, we don’t know what happens behind closed doors.

So be beware of putting your entire trust in someone because they’re always spiritual on Facebook. Only God knows the heart.

 

So Much Happens in Seven Days…

Happy Sabbath.

I spoke about the problems that arose for me at the start of last week in an earlier post. It seems so strange that less than seven days ago I was writing about the importance of mental rest and then, the very next day, I was faced with something that had me ticking over almost constantly. So at the moment I’m estranged from a family member due to religious differences–as in, one of us follows the Bible and the other follows nothing. It was only a matter of time before something like this happened. I just didn’t expect such a drastic outcome.

On the other side of the coin are my achievements for the week. Last Friday evening I was worried about my university problems and now, thankfully, I’m all caught up. I handed in my French portfolio today–all completed–and I caught up on my missed readings for Sociology. I’m ready for the assignments I’ve got next month; bought my textbooks and have focused more in my classes. The Devil was on my case on Sunday, but God’s answered some prayers anyway.

I had a nice day with a great friend, Dami. One of the few people in this world that I can trust. She’s strong, intelligent and creative–a great poet. Her testimony is amazing, as well. It was nice to have lunch with her, chat and stuff and then go to praise team practice, which I’ve just come back from. The Youth Praise Team is singing tomorrow. We haven’t sung for a while, so it’ll be nice to introduce some songs to the church that we’ve been practising during the interim.

Mmm. Next post will be a poem I think…

Have a good Sabbath.

xXx

Mental Rest

Happy Sabbath.

Every now and again, I come to a point where I’m begging Sabbath to come around. This has been a very trying week: I’m not entirely happy with the degree I’ve ended up with at university (yes, take note: ended up with), so this has meant that I’m very behind with my work. Very behind. I’m due to hand in a portfolio of French work next week and I wasn’t even aware of such a task existing, so this means that this coming week will be a rush and scramble to get the work done. I have two assignments to do for November that I haven’t started and I’ve not been able to buy a single textbook for my degree. This has led to a feeling of helplessness that has slowly accumulated over the week. My resolve has become unsteady, swaying back and forth like a Jenga tower until it finally collapses in a pathetic heap.

Sabbath has been a Godsend. I don’t have to do my assignments, I don’t have to check on the university intranet and I don’t have to e-mail any teachers. This is the easy part of Sabbath–the not doing. It’s great not having to do any work or chores or homework or whatnot, but it’s not so easy forgetting that work needs to be done on Sunday. Do we ever give God our entire attention during any day, let alone Sabbath? If I was able to forget about my university worries than I wouldn’t be writing this blog post, surely.

The important thing to remember about Sabbath is that it’s supposed to be the culmination of a spirit-filled week. Think of it as the little marzipan couple on top of the wedding cake. The reason why so many people have a hard time getting into the swing of church is because they haven’t spent time with God during the previous six days. If people got up early every morning to have devotion, they wouldn’t have such a hard time making it in for Sabbath school.

I’m probably the worst offender. Two weeks ago I was set a challenge from a friend at church to get up at six a.m./five forty-five every morning for prayer and a Bible reading. I actually prayed the night before that I wouldn’t be tired, but still, on the first morning of my task, I yawned, rolled over and went back to sleep. The following days resulted in an internal battle of ‘should I get up or shouldn’t I?’ and it all became so intense that I’d stop feeling tired anyway. It’s all a process, but I’m fully aware that the less time I spend with God during the week, the less likely I’m going to make it to Sabbath school–what’s more, the less likely I am to completely devote my Sabbath to God–physically and mentally. I’m sitting here typing and all the while my other problems are getting in the way. Should I not trust that God has it all in control?

So, I’m re-setting the challenge. Early bed; early rise, early rise; good devotion. Why not give it a go?