Resolute

Are you a resolution maker? I am, but not just for New Year. I have ‘mini bucket lists’ each season. My life needs the structure of something to attend to otherwise I’d get lost in the ocean of my own thoughts. Just gives shape to things.

Having said that, most of these are joyous, happy and positive things. I’ve learned over the years to be a slave to nothing other than the grace found in Christ. His yoke is ‘light-fitting’ and so good for me.

Most of all, Hogmanay for me is a time for spiritual reflection…am I open to the promptings of the Spirit, am I dwelling in Christ, am I tending to my Father’s business in this season of life?

I can’t remember who said it, but ‘the unreflective life is not worth living’. Life is to short to live it carelessly – lets make the most of every opportunity!

Thanks to all who’ve engaged with my blog over this last year, and on other social media too.

See you in 2018!

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Broken 2

I’ve been catching up with the BBCs series ‘Broken’ depicting the work of a priest in a poor Sheffield community.  I had been avoiding it to be honest, because of the little I’d heard, but spend some of my day off yesterday watching…

As I mentioned in my last blog, it was a difficult watch for me.  But, as the series went on, I discovered just how closely some of my life’s experience is to the main character played by Sean Bean.  The series reveals the trauma of his home life, and then sexual abuse by priests at his catholic school, and the way as a young man that he tried to processes this and how he seeks to make his life an ‘atonement’ for the bad done, seen and felt.  The wounded seeks to become the wounded healer, the saver of others.  Himself, he couldn’t save.

A few years ago, three years to be exact, my life came to a pause because I had to take a considerable amount of counselling to deal with parental hurt and trauma.  I had to revisit so many painful experiences.  I’ll spare the details, but I carried heavy things all the way from childhood, into my teens and twenties, and all the way into who I’ve become today and I needed to expose the wound and let the Healer Christ in to heal.  It’s certainly been a work in progress, but I’m no longer tied in the way I was.

And then, the sexual abuse.  Having ‘escaped’ something of the burden of home life through finding Christ and following in his way, I then had the misfortune to come into the relational circle of a sexual deviant who was sacrilege to the Salvation Army uniform he wore.  He befriended me as a young man in my mid teens, and on three separate occasions, touched me in very inappropriate ways.  I very quickly moved to a different SA church in another town, and never saw him again.  He died many years ago.  I carried that burden, confusion and feeling of shame for another nearly 20 years before disclosing it to the appropriate Police and Salvation Army safeguarding authorities.  And so begun the conflict of being so incredibly thankful for the Salvation Army, but living with its shadow growing away like a cancer.  I arrived at ‘The Army’ broken as a 15 year old teen.  Some of its people broke me further.  And I slogged away for 10 years as a Salvation Army officer as a wounded healer…desperate to ease other’s pain because I could do nothing about my own.

That is the sad, shocking truth.

The thing about Broken is that it is about the fulsome grace that appears when the truth comes out.  All of our experiences make us what we are.  They will either crush or destroy us, or they will lead us into greater dependency, vulnerability and humility, reliant upon the God of all grace.  It is when we have fallen, in whatever way our fall has come, that we find ourselves falling into the Everlasting Arms.   Being in touch with our wounds helps us understand the wounds of others.  Being healed by Christ convinces us of his presence to heal others.

This is the Great Mystery.

Disciples of the Broken Christ on the way through calvary and the tomb to resurrected life.

Soli Deo gratia.

 

 

Broken

seanbeanbrokenI finally did it.  I watched the first episode of Jimmy McGovern’s drama ‘Broken’ – a series focussing on the work of a priest in a deprived community in Sheffield, played by Sean Bean.  I’d heard people speak about this series and decided I had to catch up with it, but knew I’d had to work my way up to it.

And so I watched it.  And I wept.

As I watched this broken man entering into the brokenness of others with whatever light he could call upon, I simply started to see the faces and hear the voices of so many whose  lives are now forever entwined with mine.

I remembered the young teen telling me her uncle had raped her.
I remember the prisoner in the padded cell making his confession.
I remember the pregnant prostitute hoping for a break.
I remember the mum sitting in a Glasgow high-rise on a plastic garden chair and a one bar fire, her baby eating dog food in the hall.
I remember holding the hand of a young woman lying beside her dying mum in a nursing home bed and singing ‘You are my sunshine’ with her.
I remember taking the drug-addict young couple shopping for clothes for their unborn baby.
I remember the mum with mental health issues begging for a tenner for her gas meter.
I remember the tears of the supposed falsely accused.
I remember the homeless woman at the train station, sharing the Lord’s prayer with her, and returning the following week to see bouquets of flowers in her spot.
I remember the food parcel taken to the young lad living in a damp caravan in the middle of a Highland field.
I remember hearing the story of the trauma of violence recounted from under the sleeping bag of a man on the streets of London.
I remember kids coming to the service in their pyjamas with their cereal bowls because their parents failed to care.
I remember the look on the guys face as he walked off down the street with bags of Christmas presents we’d prepared to give to the elderly and again when he came back later asking for a loaf of bread.
I remember the elderly lunch club member telling me he probably won’t see anyone until he comes back next week.
I remember sitting on the couch beside parents who’s 11 year old son died the day before his medication arrived.
I remember the look on the boyfriends face when he tells me his girlfriend we’d be supporting took her own life.
I remember the numbness of the teenagers face as she sits on our sofa because if she was on her own she’d likely hurt herself.
I remember every wound, insult, curse, stare, outburst, slander and dismissal projected from every broken life, and knowing just a little of the sense of the prayer of Jesus ‘my God, why have you forsaken me?’

And I remember that, for a time, all those memories and more led me to a season where I found it too difficult to enter into others lives for a while because the heartache was too real, and because, whilst my work carried on, my own deep woundedness that I’d carried all my life wasn’t being attended to.

And I remember the depths of the sense of the presence of God, who delights to place the light of his treasure in the fleshy lumps of clay that we are, and how when we hold the wound before him he touches it with his very presence.

And I remember that my brother, Jesus – my Lord, Jesus – was a man of sorrows and familiar with suffering, and that to follow him often means entering into the brokenness of others.  And it is because I know that he entered into my own brokenness that I know he will enter into that of others and do the work only he can do.  We simply hold the candle of hope and point towards his coming.

I know that Jesus truly is the hope for the world and that, at all costs, we must strive to invite people into an encounter with him.  It’s a passion.  And you know what?  The word passion in its original language setting means ‘to suffer’. We’re not always ready for that bit.

And so I’ll watch the rest of the series and maybe weep a bit more.  But by the grace of God, I’ll get up each morning and go about my Father’s business and wait for grace to unfold.

5 Things I’m learning about Jesus

cropped-cropped-945837_10153574358695408_1845862021_n.jpgThere is an immensity about the person and work of Christ which means we’re always learning or rediscovering something about him.  We never ‘graduate’ from Jesus.  There is no end to the depths of him.  Here’s what I’m learning/rediscovering about him at the moment.

1.  He’s a servant.

In prayer I’ve had a number of ‘visions’ recently.  I return to the same middle-eastern type of room and Christ is always there.  He comes to me there.  Sometimes I place my head on his shoulder.  Sometimes he is preparing a meal.  Sometimes he’s washing my feet.  And I’m in tears.  He is continually offering me the invitation to come an rest with him.  He understands.

2. He’s a King.

This is an ‘image’ of Jesus that has blessed me, humbled me and given me a sense of awe in worship of late.  A sense of Jesus risen and exalted in the throne room of the Father.  I come, I bow, he lifts my head.  He invites my allegiance to His Majesty.  I’m invited to announce his enthronement to the world beginning in my own life, where I am, and to whoever will hear.

3.  He turns up in unexpected places.

I recently was outdoors getting fresh air and having some time for reflection.  I was asking him if he would simply give me a sense of his peace over a particular issue, if it was right.  Immediately a Robin flew straight onto a branch next to me and looked me square in the eye.  He stayed a few moments then flitted off out of sight.  He knew what I needed and sent an errand lad!

4.  He majors on grace.

Why is that always so surprising?  Why is it always so shocking?  He counters my endless  strains to perform and please him with a knowing look and a gentle shake of the head.  It is all given freely.  No striving.   I turn up for prayer with a concerned frown, and immediately I know ‘I’m not meant to be carrying *this*’.  And sometimes I come thinking ‘oh man, how many times do I have to come carrying this same confession again and again?’ and immediately there’s a sense of ‘no records kept’ – ‘no condemnation’.  Just grace and mercy to spur me on into a deeper gratitude that may mean that one day I stop tripping up over that thing.

5.  He majors on truth.

I can trust him to say it like it is.  He doesn’t beat around the bush.  Oh, he’s surprising and he blows my small answers out of the water, but there’s nothing untrue about him.  I was reflecting on this today.  He was preaching back to me a message I gave somewhere recently and he reminded me that he was the Key of David and that his Kingdom is more real than the kingdoms around me and that I should remember that in no uncertain terms!  No problem, Jesus.  I believe you.  And then went on to confirm in my mind the idea that he displays this Kingdom glory and authority in a particular way among his Kingdom community when we’re gathered together as ‘living stones’ maybe in a way I don’t always see when I’m doing it on my own.  Struck again by the miracle of new creation that he is beginning in his people, his Kingdom of priests, his royal nation.

What are you learning about Jesus?

I’m not for a minute suggesting that this what Jesus is showing you right now, nor that there is anything ‘new’ or revolutionary here.  What I am asking is ‘what is Jesus revealing to you?’  Is your relationship dynamic, challenging, active and life-giving?  Do you have an intimacy with him that goes beyond what felt yesterday, last week, last year, last decade? Basically, are you losing yourself in him so that, day by day, it is no longer you who lives but Christ in you?  May he grant this grace to us all.