Poem: Songs of Raggedy Praise

There are Sundays when all I can bring, God

are the cries of a broken heart

a voice that is sore from the weeping

a mind that is flying apart

 

And I wish I could give you something of value

but its all that I have to bring

these songs of raggedy praise 

for my God, who is brother and king

Some of these tears are so bitter to taste

Can I give them to you God, please

I want to give more, but please take them away

for it’s all I have and can give you today

 

Oh I wish I could give you something of value

but its all that I have to bring

these songs of raggedy praise 

for my God, who is brother and king

God takes all these tears, now not bitter to taste

and these raggedy prayers straighten seem;

and the feeling suffice, so much warmer my heart

still raw from the ice, let it not make me hard

 

How I wish I could give you something of value

but its all that I have to bring

these songs of raggedy praise 

for my God, who is brother and king

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Poem: The Woman I Am Is A Feeling Too

 

I’m still learning to name

who I am,

who I’ve been

to recognise self and

name all of me;

all that was odd and

jumbled up

like glob-knot of string

I still carefully unwind,

the revealing it brings;

 

 

I learnt to find self by

the gifts that I got

from hands that were worn

but made tender with love;

and tender hands taught me

that what I was given

was not to store up

in some

quiet private heaven –

Justice to fear won’t give in,

and liberation welcomes all in.

 

And it doesn’t reduce us to things

And it hopes and it loves

and it never gives up

and all of the feeling I bring

is part of the woman I am

and I sing

we are bodies

but we are not things –

stop pinning it down like

a butterfly’s wing,

as if that in itself is all that defines

what makes a butterfly

grow wings

to fly.

 

the poet can speak as she finds –

and weeps,

when justice of feeling is robbed,

and speaks liberation in captors retort;

the cage was undone,

but the chain?

the chain

was hung loose round our necks,

once again.

 

 

 

 

Poem: Meditation on Matthew 25: 31 – 46

Stranger, be not afraid –

come in, come in, the table is laid.

I see thee be weary, please sit yourself down

You are tired, you are thirsty  – come, see now

you can rest from your worries and

your burdens lay down.

 

Stranger be not afraid –

come in, come in the table is laid

I once too arrived here, a stranger like you

Be assured you can lay all worries down too

Find here a place where from sorrows released

Where indeed you are known, and loved – be at peace

Stranger, stranger

Why do you beg, for some crumb of food,

for these meagre dregs? Stranger, begone

for I shall not share; but in my great mercy

I will at least, leave you alone

to beg on the streets.

 

 

Those with most power are not the least

(Though they claim the title –

but God knows, and God see’s)

and though the world tells us – turn the stranger away

God calls you out now: hear God say

When you shared nought with the stranger, you shared nought with me.

 

Poem: The Evidence of My Eyes

Above the raucous, above the clashing

crashing, ever raging din

there is a softer

quieter song

that yet does soar

– i hear it sing

it will be well, it will be well

it will be well, let faith come in

 

And though the claws that rip me,

do not concede, do not desist,

that song so sweetly

calls me up

i could climb up

– I could insist

it will be well, it will be well

let hope like smoke, inhaled, be well

 

Song, sung high and sweet

above the woes

and cares beneath

that lifts me up

i will climb up

– high above, and clear, complete

it will be well, it will be well

and I will tell of all love speaks.

 

 

Poem: I Know Thee, Fear

I know thee, Fear

 

You that stalks my halls like the sweetest of traitors

keeping me from my king,

(with most earnest and well meant intention) –

yet you look at me, as if offended that I should speak mention;

 

as if I forget myself,

as if I have broken some pact or some treaty

I did not sign;

am I supposed to be quiet? but I am too tired

not to speak.

 

Maybe I am incomplete

not yet, or not enough or weak

do not speak of days when I have not praise

but bitter tears

 

Yes, I am not brave.

 

But there are days

when I know that even though

I am the helpless fish

in your coarse hands

 

you will sometime grip too tightly

and I will slip

quickly, quietly –

– oh let this stream swift carry me away!

 

I know thee, Fear

 

though I would have you

be a stranger to me.

 

Poem: I Dare

 

When I dare believe that love

Can also be received – or

daring more, can be held and without chains

will not let go;

Or when that reassurance

That with patience doth restore us,

Tender reaches with swift might,

Then all is right, I do not doubt;

And feel do I your arms around me,

once again – and love that binds me

grows the limbs that guard

this sacred, solid ground.

For though so often I am lost

More often still that I am found,

And cherished more for having lost

Yet never losing loves sweet sound.

 

 

Poem: In The Crook of Faiths Arm

For faith, which gave eyes to see

and gave ears to hearts, long wearied by fear;

For the love, that in blackest of night

never strayed from it’s path and holds faithful the light;

I hold close to it’s nurture and calm

giving thanks for it’s gift, finding peace in its balm:

And dearest to this, most wondrous care

that even apart, we meet in our prayers.

 

Poem: Storm, Be Still

The storm in your head

The raging in your heart..

You cried out: get away, get away!

But

here, here was love dearest

And hope

 

The storm in my head

The raging in my heart…

  I heard, oh I heard: get away, get away!

  But

here, here is love darling

And hope

And how the storm raged, raged on

And hearts were caged..

Imprisoned,

unprotected,

weeping, hearing

get away!

get away!

Yet stayed the loved,

And stays

And hopes

Come home

Where peace eases, and heals

Oil poured on troubles

And love is free

Unbound, safe, protected

Free, growing strong

Stay

Come home

Poem: Love, For the Giving

 

For the ones you most love in all of the world,

You would do what needs to be done;

No matter the danger, no matter the cost,

No matter how deep the scars of the battle

the scars left by sacrifice, the scars left by loss

the scars that yet heal when the battle is done.

When the ones you most love in all of the world

Still fight in a battle your heart pleads to end;

No matter how deeply the ache of the burden,

No matter how fear stalks the space of the waiting,

       yet keeping the faith, though so deeply you’re missing

   the ones you most love and so long to be living.

When the ones you most love in all of the world,

Have not yet come home, are not yet at the door

When to wait seems like the most meagre of things

When its seems like a love too piteous to bring

   yet whilst your heart beats you’d you still give it for them

   for the ones you most love, that they might live again.

   .

 

They Tie Up Heavy Burdens: When Forgiveness Becomes the Religious Rule of Men

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“But there is all the difference in the world between forgiving and excusing”.   CS Lewis, Essay on Forgiveness 1960

Forgiveness – from almost the first moments of his ministry – was at the heart of what Jesus did and said: the forgiveness that he spoke of and practised was profound: indeed it was so revolutionary, so alarming that disciples, followers and nay-sayers alike wrestled with it, poking and prodding at it with a mixture of horror, suspicion and wonder.  For it was not just the rampant forgiveness of others which so awed those around him: Jesus actively sought – and seeks – the same generosity of forgiveness from those who follow him.

The potency of the forgiveness Jesus gave was not just in what he forgave, but to whom he gave that forgiveness. Jesus certainly forgave the system which crucified him: but it was in the forgiving of the sick, the women, the despised and the rejected that the dangerous power of God’s forgiveness challenged mans rule over others. The paralysed walked, criminals were welcomed in to Gods kingdom, women – used and despised by men – were honoured. 

The religious rules made by men to protect themselves, and which made the mad, the bad, the crippled and  women ‘unsuitable’ for consideration of humanity and compassion, were held up to the light and found wanting. These were rules impossible to live by if you were poor, or sick, or not a man. The rich and joyful forgiveness of God, through Jesus, did not just wipe clean the hearts of those forgiven: it challenged societies attitudes. The gates of the kingdom, once denied to those most in need by the rule of men, were thrown open by God.  

These were rules which cared nothing for justice, mercy and faith and the same righteous anger which had swept the money lenders from the temple rose to greet the makers of men’s rule:

“Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat;  therefore, do whatever they teach you and follow it; but do not do as they do, for they do not practice what they teach.  They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on the shoulders of others; but they themselves are unwilling to lift a finger to move them.

But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you lock people out of the kingdom of heaven. For you do not go in yourselves, and when others are going in, you stop them. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you cross sea and land to make a single convert, and you make the new convert twice as much a child of hell as yourselves…”  Matthew 23: 1-4 & 13-15

Fast forward a couple of thousand years: Christians have apparently embraced forgiveness, seemingly willing to forgive with the same generosity of spirit that Christ called us to. But man’s penchant for the laws and rules that make him comfortable has not been eradicated, and nowhere is this more obvious than in how Christian Churches respond to abuse and rape.  Here we see that the abusers are ‘forgiven’ – or rather excused – and those who are the powerless and the victims are treated as though they have done something for which they should be forgiven, but they are not, and for them there is no love, and not even meagre crumbs of pity from the table.

To be abused is to endure physical, emotional, psychic and spiritual invasion. To recover and find some healing following such trauma can take a lifetime. Those coping with that process should be able to find a lifetime of love and patience from those who claim to be followers of Christ, for Jesus had that to give.  Instead, even if they are believed, victims find instead that their trauma is dismissed, or they are blamed and shamed, despised and ridiculed. The world is already awash with lack of understanding and victim blaming, but there is no safe haven in the body of Christ, for victims are not only met with the same attitude in the church but are then faced with still greater load, for they are told that they must forgive their invaders, their rapists and abusers, in the name of being a ‘proper’ Christian. And if they don’t forgive, then they are guilty – of bitterness, of resentfulness, of lack of faith, of wanting vengeance. Forgiveness has become a rule, a law to be followed, in order to access the gates of the kingdom of Heaven: victims must bow to the rule of man (including their abusers) before they can reach God.

They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on the shoulders of others; but they themselves are unwilling to lift a finger to move them.

Those who say that abusers ‘made a mistake’ are unwilling or unable to confront the reality of the great harm, the terrible sin, that the abusers are guilty of. And whether it is their discomfort or ignorance, or their desire to remain in control, they have twisted forgiveness into a rule which must be obeyed. They desire compliance to their way of life before the call of Christ or the cries of the victims.

It is time to end the warped teaching of forgiveness in its current form, twisted as it has become under the patriarchal church.  We can no longer allow to be used to keep the powerful comfortable and the abusers excused. It is time to reclaim it, be willing to be challenged again by God and dig more deeply than we have ever done before, and find this beautiful and precious wonder that is true forgiveness.

We must acknowledge that abusers are making a choice when they abuse, and that only they are responsible for the choices they make – and we must learn to stop making excuses for them. They can help it, and there is no stress, or worry, or addiction or depression that can excuse their dreadful choices.  We must acknowledge that their victims deserve belief, and love and care for the rest of their lives, and that their safety must be our priority. We must be willing to be uncomfortable, disturbed, and as righteously angry as God about terrible harm and damage that abuse does.  We must desire to hear the screams of anguish and agony and learn that it is not a lack of faith, or a desire to hold on to that which hurts, which causes those tears to fall weeks, or months, or years later. We must learn all this – and yet more.

And then maybe, maybe, we will start to learn what forgiveness truly is.