Friday 14 December 2012

Jesus Wept

The desert fathers spent weeks meditating on a single phrase from the Bible –
Like ‘Jesus wept’ – the shortest verse in the Bible.
Jesus wept.
I started thinking about it.
Jesus wept.
Not like, his eyes watered.
Or a solitary tear ran down his cheek.
Not even cried.
That’s like sobs spewing out of heaving chest
Spilling clumsily into the cold light
Juddering shoulders rocking whole body
Tears mingling with snot as they race down his face,
Too many, too much to wipe away.
Weeping isn’t pretty
– Just pretty awkward.
Weeping wells out of the deep places
Where God and man meet In love and compassion,
Their heart tearing to know the refusal of the chosen ones to open their eyes
And see that heaven has touched earth,
The kingdom has come
In the form of a man,
A man containing the fullness of the Creator.
And he is weeping,
And he knows the pain of a broken heart,
The ripping apart of unrequited love,
The rawness of rejection.
He knows the taste of tears
And the racking throb of sorrow.

In his frailty I find comfort
And know I don’t walk this road alone.

 Katrina Quinn for WordLive © Scripture Union 2012

Sunday 9 December 2012

What has happened (Or another perspective)

Thank you to everyone who's commented or encouraged me about the previous post.  It seems like a lot of people can relate.  But as I mentioned, there is another way of looking at the situation.  This post is partly inspired by one of the best talks I ever heard my Dad give (apart from my wedding speech!).  It was at a school assembly in about 2000.  He talked about failure.  He talked about a young man getting a place at Cambridge University, only to fail his first year exams and get 'kicked out', so to speak, leaving him with no option but to go to any University that would accept him - not one of the best ones let's say.  Embarrassing?  Yes.  Fail?  Pretty much.  This then of course affected the jobs and opportunities he had access to subsequently.  But this same man went on to travel, including working on an irrigation project in Kenya, and met a girl, and got married and had four daughters, and provided for them, and loved them well.  Would you call him a failure?  I don't think so.  That man was my Dad, and I was struck by his honesty and perspective.  I've no doubt it must have been devastating at the time, but he chose to get on with life and not let it hold him back.

For a long time I've dreaded the question, 'so what do you do?'.  But again I think it's a choice in how we respond and how we let our circumstances affect our attitude.  I must admit I am only slowly beginning to grasp this and attempt to live it out.  I may feel differently in a few weeks time, but right now, in this season, I can honestly say that I ENJOY the work that I do.  I like the variety, I like that I get to chat with people, I like that I get to wear whatever I like in all three jobs.  Perhaps it helps to know this is only for a season, that soon change is a'coming (more on that soon for those that don't know!).  And there's a balance isn't there, in finding CONTENTMENT in whatever season or situation you're in, whilst not settling, and not stopping to DREAM.  I find I often need challenging about this - because as I said before, I do lose my confidence, and I do doubt myself, and yet the reason I get frustrated is that deep down I believe I am made for more, and I do want to achieve great things.

And that's really what I wanted to talk about (yep, it takes me a while to get to the point!).  What do we mean by 'great things'?  What do we define as important, or as achievement?  Again, it's perspective.  A dear friend of mine sent me a really encouraging message in response to the last post saying that I have been changing the world, just not perhaps in the exciting ways I expected.  And I know I have learnt a helluvalot in the last few years.  And I know there are lots of years to come in which to learn more.  And do more.  And become more.  And it doesn't all have to happen right now!

So I'll finish with some of the things I have learnt and I have done that I probably wouldn't have if I had gone straight into a 'real job' and earned real money and all the rest....

I've learnt how to clean.  I have washed up for England, swept and mopped and buffed wooden hall floors, cleaned more toilets than I can remember, warehouses, a pub, and people's homes.

I've learnt more about benefits.  I know how to claim for housing benefit, know that I cannot yet claim job seekers allowance should I become unemployed once again, know good times to call or go down to the benefits place to avoid long queues.

I've learnt about disability.  I know how to use hoists and slings and wheelchairs and give medication and vent and feed and administer personal care.  I've gotten to know a 15-year-old boy with severe cerebral palsy and his family and friends and seen a little of the challenges they face, and been inspired by their humour and strength.

I've learnt about pubs.  I know how to pour a pint and change a barrel and I know who likes what drink in what glass and with how many ice cubes!  I know a little more about darts and poker and pool and football and betting (only a little!).

I've learnt about charities.  Like FareShare.  I've seen the amazing work that they do, the challenges of fundraising, the benefits to volunteers.  I've had my eyes opened to the poverty and struggles of many people in Brighton and Hove, as well as been inspired by the people who are trying to change things.

I've learnt about children.  I've learnt how important Early Years education is and what a difference a safe and nurturing environment can make on the emotional and physical and intellectual development of children as young as two.  I know how to make playdough and sing many many songs and games and I know how individual each child is and how precious.

I've learnt about jewellery.  I have spent time in a cooperative workshop and helped to make silver jewellery and cut and filed and oxidised and welded and polished and filed some more!

I've learnt about admin.  I am queen of the photocopier and laminator!  I have emailed and printed and guillotined and telephoned and spreadsheeted and filed and emailed and filed and posted and invoiced and paid and ordered and organised and tweeted and tried to improve a website and zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.  (I've learnt it is not my first love or my greatest gifting but i   can   do    it).

I've learnt about poetry and poets and spoken word events.  I have written and performed and created and shared and been inspired.

And... I've learnt about decorating venues, and discovered much more of Brighton, and learnt about movement and dancing and creativity and freedom and also about babies (not mine!) and MARRIAGE (yes, mine!), and communication and teaching and confrontation and the arts council website, and that I can cry even more than I thought, and about depression and I've also improved my cooking (I hope), and visited India and Norway and got closer to my family (mainly over the phone) and missed friends who aren't around anymore but made new friends too.

And in all these things, I have met such a cross-section of people who have taught me so much through their passion and perspective and drive and compassion.  I've learnt to relate to people of all ages and backgrounds, which I suppose was what I set out to do in the first place.  I've hopefully become a better communicator and a bit less easily offended and more comfortable with being myself.

SO yeh.  I guess I have learnt quite a bit.  And I'm sure, if you think about it, you have too!

Thursday 6 December 2012

What Hasn't Happened (or, failure in the post-uni-life-of-someone-who-graduated-into-a-crisis)

Have I failed?

It's a question I've asked myself a lot in the past few years.  These past three and a half years since University ended and 'the real world' began.

Before University, I was usually top of the class.  I mainly got A's.  I never failed an exam or test.  At school I was told I could do anything I wanted.  In church I was told I was a leader.  I considered medicine, politics, working for the EU of the UN.  Whatever it was, I was going to change the world.  I was going to rescue street children in Brazil, and save the rainforest, and change unjust legislation so that stupid debts could be cancelled, and fight against human trafficking, and encourage development without domination.

At University, I got a bit overwhelmed.  Everyone could have probably have made the exact same claims I just did.  And more.  And they seemed to know where they were headed with a lot more precision and confidence than I did.  And for the first time I wasn't top of the class and I often felt stupid.  I didn't understand most of what I read.  I got confused by the mixture of ideology, cynicism, activism, drugs and anti-anything-relating-to-God that infused the seminar rooms and societies of Sussex.  I lost some of my voice and my passion, because I compared myself too much to others.  I didn't make the most of opportunities that came my way.  And by the end of it I wanted nothing more to do with the academic world that seemed to me to be so narrow and exclusive and limited.  (Although, having said that, I did eventually, in the fourth year, find my flow a bit more when it came to studying and enjoyed learning and writing and was pleased with my final results).

So I decided I wouldn't dive straight in with the whole 'proper grown up job thing'.  I wanted to meet real people, of different ages and social backgrounds and economic statuses.  Because really my life and everyone around me had always been very middle-class.  And I figured there was a whole lot more to learn outside of libraries and journals.  So I took a gap year in Brighton and volunteered at various charities and focused on developing my faith and character.  All good.  THEN the plan was to get a job, move in with friends, perhaps move to London or abroad and kick off my career  - whatever that was going to be.


We were told, 'work hard at school, go to University, and you'll have a much better chance at getting a good job with a higher salary'.  A degree opens doors, we were told.

Every job that I have done in the past three and a half years has not required a degree (except for a brief stint of English teaching, which was highly stressful and nigh-impossible to get work in the UK out of summer months).  In fact I now often remove my degree from my CV to increase the chances of getting a job, any job at all.  That's what it's come down to - any job that I can get.  And I know I'm not alone in having lost count at the number of rejections I've received from job applications.  I was even refused Job Seeker's Allowance, because I hadn't earned enough previously.  The majority of my jobs have paid me minimum wage and I haven't come close to starting to pay off my student loan.  The only reason I've been able to stay in Brighton with a roof over my head is due to the kindness of friends who let me live with them for a year for next to nothing, and later on due to generosity of people in our church when Llewellyn and I got married.  This year is the first time I've been able to work full-time hours and even been able to save a little some months, by working two or three jobs simultaneously.


And I know I'm not the only one.  By a long way.  Yes the economy.  Yes the crisis.  Yes, we know.  But I can't help begrudging those who gave us such high hopes in the first place.  Was it really like that, back then?  How have things changed so much, so quickly.  No wonder my generation is feeling a little lost, a little (or a lot) let-down, a little lacking in identity and motivation.  Well, I speak for myself, anyhow.  The majority of my friends are re-training as teachers and nurses so that at least they have 'something'.  A few of us are holding out, hoping that we won't just have to do 'something' for the sake of job security.  But perhaps we are just spoiled.  (Dis) illusion-ed.  We have been given too much choice, and that is difficult to give back.

Forgive me if this sounds depressing.  But let's be honest.  It is.  I'm sure my depression this year was in part due to the fact I didn't feel I had anything to look forward to, that I was running out of hope for the future, and stagnating, and definitely not changing the world as I had planned.  And now I'm 26 and even thought it's silly it feels like I'm running out of time.  I often wonder if I've disappointed my family (a family full of people with 'proper jobs'!), the teachers that believed in me, myself, God??  To be honest I know dwelling on that won't get me anywhere, so at the moment I generally manage not to think about it - although my dreams are full of me messing things up and being late and being exposed and frustrated, so perhaps those feelings are lurking under the surface.  Anyways...

I've got more to say on this, because there is definitely another way of looking at the past few years.  But today I guess I just want to give voice to the frustrations that I know a lot of us mid-twenty-somethings are experiencing.

Tuesday 4 December 2012

Pighog, Brendan Cleary and Poetry

Last Wednesday I went to Pighog (a Sussex-based publisher)'s poetry night at the Redroaster in Brighton (always a lovely venue).  I'd been before, and have to admit that a lot of the poetry went over my head.  It's a bit more of a 'serious', 'grownup' night than others in Brighton.  Which to some might mean... boring?  Anyhow - and here comes another admission - I decided to give it a go mainly because last time one of the Pighog guys approached me after my slot in the open mic suggesting a possibility of them printing some of my poems.  As you can imagine I was very excited and eagerly awaited contact.  Which never came.  So I guess I was hoping I might remind them and get a similarly good reaction last week.  Perhaps not the best motivation, but I'm being honest.  I would love to have some work published.

Anyways as it turned out, I actually really enjoyed the night.  I went alone but bumped into some familiar open-mic-night faces and then another friend turned up so I had people to chat to before it started.  I only just got my name on the open-mic list, Brighton people are very keen and it's probably the only occasion that us scatterbrained poets turn up early.  haha, well that's definitely the case for me anyhow.  The room was full and atmosphere good, with prizes being given for a poetry competition and a celebration of the year.  It was only slightly ruined by a very drunk guy attempting poetry at the very end and making a bit of a scene.  I think the only people who were shocked were those who weren't from Brighton!  The highlight for me was definitely hearing Brendan Cleary read his poems.  Hailing from Northern Ireland, he probably could have said anything and I'd have lapped it up, what with his beautiful accent and deep voice.  But I like his poems too!  They were mainly very short, honest and about 'real life'.  Heart break and loss and pubs and drugs and music and more...  I especially enjoyed one about him when he was a DJ at a pub, dancing with the barmaid out on the street.  Could just picture it.  So that was a treat, and something different to the norm.

My little slot went OK, not amazing, I was last on and aware of the time getting on.  And the Pighog guy didn't seem to recognise me nor be particularly struck by my poems.  I have to say I was a little disappointed, but then had to remind myself why I started out doing this in the first place, and why I want to keep on going.  Not for personal gain or fame (although I'm not gonna lie - these are attractive!) but in order to speak out truth, to communicate words of life, to encourage and to perhaps challenge people to look at things from a different perspective.  So I need to keep hold of that otherwise I am just setting myself up for more disappointment.

This week I'm trying out another open mic night in Brighton and also going up to London to read a couple of poems at a friend's event.  So I will try to be true to myself and to the words I feel I've been given, and hopefully can bring some light into someone's darkness in the meantime.

Monday 3 December 2012

The Light we are waiting for // Advent

On Sunday at church we focused on Advent, and on welcoming the Light of the World.  It was a contemplative and peaceful morning, with time and space to reflect and to pray.  So thought I'd continue in that vein with other bits and bobs I've gathered and let you do the same.  Don't rush :-)

This is what Advent means: to be chosen and upheld by God, to be filled with God's delight and Spirit, to bring justice to the nations, to hold God's hand and be God's promise, to open eyes that are blind, to free captives from prison, to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness          (Isaiah 42:1-9).
From Friar Richard Rohr's Daily Meditations

Light shines through ordinary things and makes them extraordinary

"If we aren’t going to love the world around us, then we might as well pack it all up and go home. If we don’t love, and if we don’t bring freedom with us, then we are simply another religion, lumped in with the rest of them. But first, of course, we need to understand who we truly are and what we have at our disposal.
The truth is, the light of the world resides within us".

(Darren Wilson, maker of the amazing documentary, 'Father of Lights' )

The light shines in the darkness, 
and the darkness has not overcome it
John 1:5

'The Lord is my light, my light and salvation
In God I trust, in God I trust'
Taize song